Fowl play: Chicken therapy is tackling loneliness among the elderly

March 28, 2019

Sixty nursing homes across the United Kingdom have welcomed in some “fine feathered friends” to amuse their residents, promote healthful activities, and reduce loneliness—all courtesy of HenPower, a program dedicated to improving older people’s lives through creativity.

The hens are housed on the grounds, giving elderly occupants the opportunity to spend some productive time outdoors—feeding them, collecting the eggs, maintaining their coops, and generally looking after them, according to a report by Goodnet.

HenPower has been especially successful working with patients who have dementia—“hengaging” them in daily activities that promote a sense of community, and decreasing their overall levels of anxiety.

The hens aren’t there just for diversion and therapy, however. They also serve as muses for the residents, Goodnet notes. In fact, they have become the subject of paintings, songs, stories, and more, as their elderly friends find new purpose in their days and feel excited by flowing creativity.

The organization has been especially helpful in allowing elderly residents to feel needed through caring for others, instead of always being cared for, themselves. It’s a small change that has made a significant impact on their lives and outlook.

While seemingly unconventional, the presence of the chickens has made a significant improvement in the residents’ outlook. One study conducted by Northumbria University found that HenPower really does help improve their health and increase their enthusiasm for life.

One elderly man said that—while he initially believed the HenPower concept was bizarre, at best—he ultimately decided to try the program, and now feels it’s the best thing he ever has done.

When elderly residents know they have a reason to get up in the morning because they have to look after their chickens, it brings everyone together for the same cause, taking care of the animals and themselves.

Research contact: @goodnet_org

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