How Chickens Are Helping UK Nursing Homes Battle Loneliness

How Chickens Are Helping UK Nursing Homes Battle Loneliness

There are millions of different types of therapy. Some are tried and true, others the jury is still out on. Like, 22% of people who have hot tubs use them for injury recovery. It’s fabulous. Also, tried and true. What about an emotional support duck? Or any range of support animals? One thing we do know is that animals being used therapeutically is popularly en-vogue and it works.

In the UK, nursing homes have been battling a very common late-life plague: loneliness. They’ve been successfully battling it with chickens. The charity Equal Arts strives to improve the lives of elderly people by engaging them with creativity. In 2011, they started the HenPower movement aiming to reduce isolation, loneliness, depression, and dependency upon antipsychotic medication. And they would do so with chickens.

What started as a way for elderly residents to enjoy and be responsible for the curious creatures has blossomed into a widely funded movement with 40 sites and counting.

“HenPower is innovative because it is not just brief ‘petting’ of the hens, but also taking responsibility for them. There’s a huge range of roles with shared responsibilities, with diverse ways to interact with the project,” said nursing professor Glenda Cook, who led the research evaluation of the project.

Needing consistent care, the chickens from HenPower helped residents get active in the process of caring for — and hanging out with — their chickens. It has been successful and the movement shows no sign of stopping. Seeing the day-to-day difference in the quality of the lives of people affected by the simple creatures is proof in itself.

Test cases have seen drops in medication needs, depression, and loneliness. Ossie Cresswell, 87 years old, noted the difference a few feathered friends can make:

“Next to blindness loneliness is the worst thing you can have, it is a big affliction. It can destroy a lot of people. I know because I have been through it. At 87, hens are the biggest thing in our lives.”

One person who helps HenPower notes that chickens are just funny animals and that merely watching them bop around is enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face. We tend to agree. Whatever is going on, HenPowerment is remarkably successful and certainly nothing to ba-gok at.

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