The program was launched in the UK by creative ageing charity Equal Arts in 2011 and aims to use hen-keeping and creative activities to tackle social isolation and reduce depression.
Now, across more than 40 care homes in the UK, the program is bringing hens and arts to older people in care settings within Australia with positive results.
So far, Kapara Residential Living hens Henny Penny, Chooky Looky, Chicken Licken and Priscilla are settling in well and bringing smiles to the faces of residents, staff, volunteers, family and a group of weekly-visiting pre-schoolers since being brought to the facility’s Memory Support Unit in May.
“The residents just love them,” says Kapara Senior Manager Lyn Bertram.
“For many of them, it brings back memories of their younger days, and they really enjoy handling and petting them, feeding and looking after them. The kids from the visiting pre-school and families also enjoy having them around too.
“This program is about building relationships through hen-keeping and we are delighted by the positive outcomes it has already achieved.”
As part of the creative ageing program and joint intergenerational visits with the local playgroup, the chickens have even featured as inspiration for chook-themed artwork created during craft sessions which will be exhibited next month as part of the South Australian Living Arts (SALA) Festival.
Manager of the HenPower Program Jos Foster-Melville says the positive impact the hens have on residents is seen time and again.
“This project gives people a role and responsibility with the hens providing the catalyst for building relationships and exploring creativity,” she says.
“Bringing creativity into care is a fantastic way to engage people and aid communication, especially for those living with dementia.”
Staff at the residential care facility will Skype with the HenPower team in the UK who will offer advice with hen keeping and how to actively engage older people in meaningful, creative activities.