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Pioneering project tackles loneliness in elderly with chickens

  • 12 Comments

A project linking older people with hens to combat social isolation has been launched in care homes in Yorkshire, following a successful pilot.

The HenPower project uses hen-keeping to tackle social isolation, reduce depression and improve people’s wellbeing.

“It’s such a simple idea which has such a potential for big impact on the homes taking part”

Phil Whitaker

It is run by Equal Arts, a charity offering creative opportunities for older people. It was awarded £1m lottery funding to roll HenPower out across the UK.

Following London, Leeds is the next location as part of the roll-out, where it is being introduced in two homes run by Orchard Care Homes.

The company piloted the scheme in two of its homes in the North East, at St George’s Hall and Lodge in Darlington, prior to Yorkshire.

After positive feedback, the company requested the opportunity to implement the project in other homes, with a view to rolling this out further across the group.

Phil Whitaker, operations director for Orchard Care Homes, said: “We were overwhelmed by the impact the HenPower project had in our pilot home in Darlington and so were keen to bring this opportunity to more of our homes.

“It’s such a simple idea which has such a potential for big impact on the homes taking part,” he said.

“It gives people a role and responsibility and residents can be involved as much as they wish”

Douglas Hunter

Zoe Laver, home manager of Nesfield Lodge in Leeds, said: “The hens give a focus to the residents. They feed the hens, clean them out and collect the eggs.

“We also bring the hens in to sit on the knees of our residents – they have a wonderful calming effect and we’ve seen such a positive uplift in the home,” she added.

Equal Arts director Douglas Hunter said: “To see HenPower establishing in Leeds venues is testament to the difference this simple idea can have on people’s wellbeing, no matter where they are in the country.

“It gives people a role and responsibility and residents can be involved as much as they wish,” he said. “HenPower moves away from passive care and harnesses people’s imagination and interests to empower themselves.”

In 2014, a 12-month study by Northumbria University found the innovation improved the health of older people, reduced depression and loneliness, and cut the need for some medication.

  • 12 Comments

Readers' comments (12)

  • CQC have stopped many care homes from keeping chickens for the residents - stating health and safety issues and refusing to listen to any kind of reasoned argument from the homes.

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  • Great Idea , very innovative, will give it a go in our homes, Council thinks we are a load of bird brains anyway

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  • Don't bring them anywhere me I can't stand them. I prefer properly trained, specialised and understsnding healthcare professionals who know their job thanks.

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  • What a silly remark, Anonymous 7-Oct-2015 8:17 pm.
    You don't have to go anywhere near the hens if you don't like them, and neither do the residents. "I PREFER properly trained, specialised and understanding healthcare professionals who know their job..." - why on earth would properly trained, etc, professionals be incompatible with keeping chickens? Why would there have to be a choice?
    This initiative is not new and some care homes in the north-east of England have been keeping chickens for some time, to the great satisfaction and pleasure of the residents. Once you've got past the health and safety watchdogs and shown that the benefits far outweigh any risks (which are managed with simple hygiene), then everybody can enjoy the enjoyment and fun that chickens provide; and it is already a well-established fact that helping to care for another living creature is beneficial. Too many residents have to leave their pets behind when they move into care. Too many people from rural backgrounds end up never having contact with animals again.
    Which is something that the 'properly trained...understanding...professionals' should already know.

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  • Perhaps annon 7th october thinks the chickens will be doing the health care. Either that or she feels the elderly should live in a sterile environment deviod of pleasure. Either way it was a stupid comment.

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  • Thanks for the two above foolish responses. If I go to a home I expect care not a bloody farmyard.

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  • To the two stupid comments above mine from those unable to support other people's views without making value judgements - Remind me to choose a care home in a city centre and call in health and safety and where properly trained specialist staff respect the wishes of their residents and don't impose upon them. Never heard such nonsense.

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  • Oh dear! Have we touched a nerve? I hope if I ever have to go into care, it will be with people who understand the importance of other living creatures and the fun and pleasure of having them around. I bet you don't even approve of homes having a cat or a dog on the premises. If you bother to read all the information you'll find that the residents' wishes have been respected and, as I say, nobody has to get involved who doesn't want to. But it's nice for the others to have a choice.
    I really don't understand why you think that animal-keeping is incompatible with 'properly trained specialist staff'. Who do you think will be delivering the care? Work experience kids studying agriculture?

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  • Above : oh dear with that attitude and the assumptions you make about the beliefs and values of others, hopefully one never lands in your home under your care. Ours are far superior with properly trained specialist care teams dedicated the needs of the elderly and where in some there are therapy dogs, mules, llamas and hippo therapy as well as a range of other domestic and farm animals.

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  • U.K. Are very backward and amateurish in this respect and in elderly care in general. In other countries gerontology is a multidisciplinary and highly rewarding specialisation with attractive career structure and post grad education offering a very broad spectrum of individualised CARE and services instead of robbing the elderly of all their finances and leaving them unmotivated in a bed or chair all day long, feeding them mush, or offering silly games of bingo or so- called corny entertainment whilst ingnoring the intellect of the elderly and enhancing their many other capacities rather than focus in what they can no longer do.

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