How Chicken Therapy Can Tackle Loneliness Among the Elderly

Eggcellent community bonding thanks to these creatures

Mar 23, 2019

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HenPower

(Anton Ivanov / Shutterstock.com)

UK nursing homes are getting some colorful new residents. HenPower is bringing the joy of hens to more than 60 care homes around the UK to add some excitement to their daily activities, promote health and wellness, and reduce loneliness.

The hen’s energy is a much-needed boost during a time when most elderly in assisted living environments are slowing down. The hens give them a chance to further explore their creativity and to spend some time outdoors with the chickens having fun, feeding them, collecting the eggs, maintaining their coops, and generally looking after them.

HenPower especially works with those with dementia, reducing agitation as well as the use of antipsychotic medications by brightening their days. The hens aren't there just to be coddled though. They also serve as muses for the residents. The hens 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. It’s a small change that has brought made a significant impact on their lives and outlook. HenPower also encourages older people to harness their newfound energy and get involved past nursing home activities, and attend/volunteer at festivals, community events, or lend their services to local schools in order to gain similar benefits and bring a bright spot to their days.

While seemingly unconventional, these chickens allow for significant improvement in the residents’ outlook. One study by Northumbria University found that HenPower really does help improve the health and wellbeing of the elderly community, successfully reducing depression and loneliness rates as well. The organization has plenty of support from the community (including individual volunteers, health care organizations, and schools), which allows HenPower to create real change in the way elderly people see themselves.

One elderly man said that while he initially believed the HenPower concept was bizarre at best, he ultimately decided ‘why not try it,’ and now feels it’s the best thing he ever did. To take pride in looking after someone or something can completely change the way a person lives their lives. 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.

REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.