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Chickens help older people battle loneliness

17th September 2018

In more than 40 locations across the country, a heart-warming scheme is in place which introduces hens and chickens to care homes as a way of combatting loneliness.

HenPower, a project pioneered by Equal Arts and funded by the National Lottery, has seen residents engaging with the animals, and has proven to be a great way of lowering crippling anxiety and depression. Found in a variety of different residential care homes, HenPower has connected over 700 older people with the hens, creating communities of ‘hensioners’ who care and nurture for the pets.

The scheme originated in a dementia care centre in the north-east of the country following a resident stating that he missed his own hens. In a way to inject some happiness back into his life and to combat this issue, six hens and a house were bought into the facility, a decision made between the manager of the home and Douglas Hunter, director of Equal Arts, a charity who was working at the centre at the time. ‘Our main reservation was whether the staff would be annoyed by them, and wouldn’t have time to look after them,’ Hunter said. However, both the staff and residents backed the introduction of the hens, with the success of the animals allowing the project to expand.

Soon after, Equal Arts won backing from the National Lottery to allow the project to reach new homes across the UK, meaning that the positive impact HenPower has on those participating in the scheme can reach new people. Aside from giving residents who were struggling with loneliness, those who may need stairlifts for home use, and people with limited communication skills a purpose and responsibility, those suffering from dementia are also reaping the benefits:

“One lady was in the final stage of dementia. She did not communicate vocally at all. She would sit all day and just rock. When the chicks were hatching we gathered the residents around the incubator and as the chicks hatched she started to say ‘chicken, chicken.’ I was very tearful…. she put out her hand and cupped the chick and tried to kiss their beak. That is why I am so enthusiastic about the hens” said one of the care workers.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only and are up to date as of the time of publishing