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Inspiring movement at all ages: Joël Kruisselbrink and Azmi Alubeid open their idea treasure chest for aged care workers

A leaf blower, a wheelchair and a beach ball. As a conference organiser, we typically get some unusual requests for speaker props, but these (and the combination of them that unfolded) could be among the most eccentric requests we’ve ever had. Not to mention the mystery surrounding them – how would Friday afternoon’s MOVE Congress keynotes Joël Kruisselbrink and Azmi Alubeid use them on stage?

“Who loves gardening?” Joël, a Dutch movement education professional, aged care worker and viral social media video maker, asks the audience. This is the first clue. Those in the audience who dare to respond by putting their hands up risk falling into the playful trap of the cheeky pair from Bewegen is Leven (Movement is Life), who start pointing at unsuspecting ‘volunteers’.

“You… you… hmm… You!” The chosen ‘contestant’ is Rose-Marie Repond, physical education expert from Bern University of Applied Sciences, who is invited onto the stage. What happens next? In the spirit of the game, it’s perhaps more fun to show, rather than tell. Click on the video below to find out.

How on earth did Joël come up with a leaf blower-beach ball game for aged care home residents with limited mobility to play?

“I use everything that is available on location [to inspire aged care residents to move]. Like plastic glove boxes [for example] – I use them as a paddle,” he explains. “We invest in the residents and find out what they like to do, what they were good at in the past and what they are still capable of. Then we adapt the exercises accordingly. You immediately see that the residents like participating more [as a result].”

Azmi adds, with a grin: “Joël is a very practical guy… When I watch your videos and I see you putting smiles on the faces of your residents, I get inspired. And I think that everyone here agrees with me. And inspiring people is the best way of teaching, right?”

“Nothing is impossible because everything is movement”
Even though Joël has produced most of his videos in Dutch so far, they have not only gone viral in the Netherlands, but also internationally, as they are an idea treasure chest for carers and physical activity promoters around the globe and uplifting viewing for anyone else who comes across them.

In their work in Rotterdam, Joël and Azmi often meet elderly residents who have neuro-cognitive disorders such as dementia and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Many spend their entire day sitting or lying down in bed and suffer from feelings of loss – including loss of connection with loved ones, memory, speech and the ability to use certain objects.

When the duo started working this this field, they wanted to change the way of looking at health care and aged care to make it more fun and enabling, rather than disabling.

They want to encourage other aged care workers to “observe and find out what people can actually do before you take care of them so that you’re also an empowering professional. Don’t over-care or over-protect, because it’s not necessary,” Azmi urges.

“[We focus on] psychological needs, like the need for autonomy, the need for bonding and the need for feeling competent. These needs are cross-cultural. It doesn’t matter where you are from or how old you are. If you are not fulfilling these needs, you will be in a survival mode, and if you are in a survival mode, you don’t want to play and you don’t want to have a nice conversation. So Joël takes all of the frustration away by fulfilling these needs.”

When Joël invents the fun activities he features in his videos, he always makes sure the residents share the experience of creating the activity. He mentions Henk, who helps put clean clothes away by catapulting socks into drawers from his bed. And Klaas, whose favourite game is blowing plastic balls into pool table pockets with a hairdryer (Fohn Bal/Hairdryer ball). Or Sister Miep, who did not want to get out of bed until she was invited to use her skills as a former nurse to help the carers in the home.

When Joël and Azmi meet residents with severe conditions and extremely limited mobility, they focus on stimulating basic senses and sensations, including with water therapy. They overcome limitation with imagination and, as Joël points out, “nothing is impossible because everything is movement”.

The world is Joël and Azmi’s oyster – now, who else wants to play?
It was hard to believe that this was the duo’s first presentation in English at an international conference (Azmi is the chief storyteller and translator for Joël, as well as being an integral part of their social entrepreneurial partnership, and is a movement education professional himself). But the world is opening up fast to their work, as their electronic guides and the “11 steps of Joël” are also now available in English, German and Spanish.

In the tradition of putting new physical activity ‘rock stars’ on the stage, we’re sure that there will be many more speaker invitations to come. Now, are there more conference organisers who would like to play? You, you… or you?

Discover more about Joël and Bewegen is Leven https://linktr.ee/joelkruisselbrink

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