Essex FaNs Wishing Washing Line

The Wishing Washing Line is aimed at communities engaging with care home residents with interests that are important to them! Love chess or gardening? We're sure there's a wish waiting to be granted!

Check out our Facebook page to see how we're adapting our Wishing Washing Line to operate Covid-19 safely. If you are an Essex Care Home who would like to get involved please contact us

Colourful picture of wishing washing line

​What can we say about our most famous creation, devised by our own Team FaNs Tony Lee?

The Wishing Washing Line (WWL) is the bedrock of our needs-led Fans initiatives. It evolved as a way to overcome the frustration in a small charity of being unable to be everywhere at once, and trying to find community volunteers to match up with individual Care Home residents. Residents were initially just asked to give us their ‘requests’ for people, community relationships and activities which would enrich their lives and keep them feeling part of the Community.

Trying to find the right match for a resident was like looking for a ‘needle in a haystack’!

We knew that many people are very willing and really want to spend some time with Care Home residents, because they feel it is the right thing to do. To capture this willingness and make it enjoyable and self-sustaining we needed to create a means to allow positive relationships to form through shared interests. As Tony says “There’s no joy in spending time knitting with a Care Home resident if you really don’t like knitting!! We needed to find a better way of finding and offering opportunities to all the keen local knitters. So, the idea of a Wishing Washing Line was born to get a wider audience and to find a way of taking away this problem”.

How does the FaNs Wishing Washing Line work?

The Care Home staff have conversations with their residents to identify their wishes and then send them to us (or the named WWL host contact person). Ideally the wishes are written on card, ready for adding to the WWL, but some 'hosts' can transcribe from an emailed list.

People in the community, our potential friends and neighbours (FaNs) of the care home residents, see the wishes because they are then displayed in large 2-Dimensional displays in locations with a high footfall - for example, our 'hosts' include Tesco Extra stores, Morrisons stores, Tea rooms, Libraries. Willing 'FaNs' can then contact the Care Home directly to arrange to grant the wishes which are of direct interest to them. This increases the likelihood of sustainability; the individual FaNs and the residents may bond, forming a relationship over a shared interest. The FaNs are not then just spending 1 hour in a care home, but going back to share the activity they are interested in – playing chess, knitting, playing the piano, singing, acting, dancing - or any multitude of things residents wish for, again and again.

We also share wishes digitally on our Facebook page. There is always the likelihood that someone will see the wish, whether in a store or online. Through the small degrees of separation between us all and 'the power for good' of social media, that person will know someone and the ball will start rolling until that wish can be granted. Our anecdotal evidence is that 85% of wishes are granted. We don’t always get feedback from either the FaN or the Care Home, largely because of the micro volunteering model on which this community initiative is based. But we do share a lot of this evidence and outcomes for wishes on social media and this in turn generates more enthusiastic individual FaNs coming forwards. They look at the wishes and say to themselves "I could do that!" We have built up an amazingly resourceful FaNs Network on social media with over 2000 individuals all interested in supporting our FaNs initiatives.

What do individual Care Home residents wish for?

The vast majority of wishes are small and may seem insignificant to many members of the community. Like knitting (or having wool to knit), or having someone to chat with, or read a magazine with, to sing with. To many Care Home residents these small opportunities can make their day, make their week, make their month!

Although the wishes can be small, as a charity we hold the view that the sky is the limit. We encourage the Care Home staff to have conversations with their individual residents and really think about what activity or experience would improve their quality of life through community connection. They don’t just have to wish for someone to come and sing and dance if what they really want is to go to the Theatre! Or to re-visit somewhere they used to go in the community before they moved to live in a Care Home, or even to actually meet their hero……

Of course, not everything in possible, but some amazing outcomes have come from a simple wish…..Gladys getting to meet Michael Bolton, Tom going to a weightlifting competition and ending up with a weightlifting gym in the Care Home garden, Vera receiving a personal video message from Judge Rinder, a 'Ladies' request to see Butlers in the Buff being filmed by national ITV, John wanting a ride again in an old Routemaster Red Bus.

Big wishes which can make our Care Home residents feel that they still matter as individuals, that they are not isolated and forgotten, and knowing that others remain interested in helping to fulfill their personal wishes and dreams can also be hugely important to the self-esteem and wellbeing of the residents. It’s not always just someone to come and have a chat, or bring their pet to visit, but the individual benefits of that too should not be underestimated.


Timing is all as people get older. Care Home residents do tend to be more frail and many have ill health or cognitive or physical impairments. That is why we say ‘make every moment count’ and sometimes it’s very poignant. Pat ‘Rusty’, a keen rider in her youth was due to host a visit from the local Scouter enthusiasts, but sadly passed away before this happened. The Care Home and her family were absolutely amazed that the bikers still wanted to find a way to grant her wish and ‘ride out for Rusty’ became part respectful participation of hundreds of bikers in her funeral cortege.

Response to the Wishing Washing Line

The response we’ve had from members of the public, not just in response to the individual wishes but to the Wishing Washing Line concept, is extraordinary.

"This is brilliant." "We love it!" "Can we have it in our area?"

Care Homes, residents and their families are also very positive, although not all are willing or able to post on Social Media. One Care Home recently wrote to the Charity:

On behalf of everyone at Lime Court we would like to thank everyone at FaNs for arranging the ‘Wishing Washing Line’ Wishes for our residents. It has had such a positive effect on our residents’ wellbeing having their wishes granted.

It has been so nice also to have members of the community coming into the home to see our residents. We have had lots of pet visits and also people coming into chat with our residents. One lady kindly visited to chat with one of our residents who was in the RAF and spent the afternoon looking through photos and chatting about her memories, it was so lovely to see. We have had lots of visitors who have come in to grant wishes wanting to return to the home on a regular basis, which is really lovely. We have lots of wishes that are going to be granted in the next few months which will include sea shanty singers, Scottish dancing and an origami display to name a few.

Lime Court Ballroom dancers
"We recently had a lady who had turned 100 years young and her wish was to ‘see ballroom dancers’. Her wish was granted by two young dancers from Ballroom Business. The afternoon was amazing for Maisie and for all our other residents who watched the amazing performance."

We would like send a big thank you to everyone who has granted our resident wishes so far, and look forward to all the future ones being fulfilled.

Sarah Meachen, Lifestyle Co-ordinator, Lime Court

Tony Lee remains excited by the WWL and his enthusiasm is infectious!

"The Wishing Washing Line is, without doubt, the most successful thing I have ever been involved with. It brings joy and happiness to so many people, not just the residents - and that’s the thing to remember. It’s also about members of the community who get involved, and the Care Homes too. The Activity staff and managers can raise the Home’s profile and evidence their work with the community as part of their Care Quality Commission inspections and show the photographic evidence, show at the quotes, speak to the residents themselves and ask them ‘How does this make you feel when Alfred comes every second Thursday and plays chess with you ?

I certainly feel the WWL has made massive differences to certain resident’s lives and that was all we could have ever hoped to achieve! “

Want to know more, or to tell us about your Wishing Washing Line experience?

We encourage feedback from both FaNs about their volunteering experience and Care Homes regarding the resident’s experiences. Please tag us @fansnetworkessex if you are posting on your own social media pages, but please ensure you have obtained the resident's permission first! We can share feedback and stories you send us by posting on our Facebook Page and more selectively on our website. This really does encourage others to participate. Our ‘Fans Network’ now has over 2000 people to respond to and share digital requests and is a really powerful resource which enables us to have a wide reach with a limited resource.

We believe there are about 12 WWLs within Essex, but many spring up in local areas and have become embedded in local communities. There are also a number of WWLs which have been set up around the country. We have shared this concept and 'How to set up a FaNs Wishing Washing Line' as well as learning from our experience of it. This sharing is national, via Care Home FaNs and in response to requests from other charitable organisations and Councils. We have even helped set up a Wishing Washing Line in China!

If you want to know more please contact us.