How a Beatle, a nun and a gorilla have brought joy to our customers

For most of us the new working arrangements have brought a change of wardrobe but for one of our activities co-ordinators it’s meant finding 100 different outfits for a daily 11am appointment.

Throughout lockdown and beyond April Harper appeared at the daily wave at our retirement living scheme St Dominic’s Court in Stoke-on-Trent as characters including Dennis the Menace, Mr Blobby and George Harrison.

She’s channelled her inner Mama Mia, donned a moustache for Super Mario and took on the challenge of wearing a full gorilla suit.

There have been appearances as a snowman, cowboy, rabbit, bumble bee and because St Dominic’s was once a convent, as a nun.

And at Easter she turned into a giant chick in protective gloves and delivered a sanitised egg to every customer’s front door!

“Lockdown hasn’t been an easy time for our residents,” said April, who organises social and wellbeing activities at the scheme. “Normally, we’d put on a range of activities – from Tai Chi classes to trips to the local market and bingo – but restrictions have meant we can’t do this.

“Like many other retirement living schemes, we started doing the 11am waves as a way of helping our residents to feel connected with staff and fellow tenants – but I wanted to do something a little different to make them smile. That’s why I decided to raid my loft and starting wearing fancy dress costumes every day. I was delighted that my team members got involved too – especially Ruth Stretton, who became my co-conspirator.

“Never in a million years did I think we’d dress up in 100 different outfits but the residents loved it and it really built momentum. We’ve had such laugh doing it – both residents and staff – and I loved how excited everyone would get trying to guess what I’d be dressing up as.”

April recently scored a century with 100 different costumes over 100 almost consecutive days which included going into work on her day off so that residents didn’t miss out. For the big finale, she and Ruth dressed up as a horse for a race-themed celebration – although the outfit had to be adapted to ensure they could social distance.

“It was the longest horse you’ve ever seen but we had a blast. Everyone got involved with some staff dressing up as jockeys and others wearing their best frocks as if they were going to the races. We had a singer who provided entertainment and the residents enjoyed a glass of bucks fizz whilst they watched from their rooms. It was really wonderful.”

April added: “I just wanted to make our residents smile really. The last few months have been tough for everyone but at 11am it was nice to just have some fun and be a bit silly.”

28th August 2020 | 2020