Hen keeping – a cracking new therapy
25 Nov 2015
A project that provides older people in Northumberland with an opportunity to look after hens is aiming to encourage social interaction and improve people’s wellbeing.
The Northumberland Cooping Well project has seen volunteers and elderly enthusiasts get involved in the day-to-day care of poultry with the guidance from people who are experienced in keeping poultry.
The first coops have been set up at Briardale Community Centre in Blyth and The Alnwick Garden in response to requests for more activities of interest for both older men and women.
The idea behind the project is that hens are sociable creatures which people can enjoy interacting with. They reduce stress levels, are harmless and can help people tap into early memories, especially those suffering from dementia. Over recent weeks residents have been busy feeding and cleaning the hens and collecting their freshly laid eggs.
The project is part of the Ageing Well programme which is funded by Northumberland County Council. The aim of Ageing Well is to help ensure people stay active, connected and well as they grow older.
The project although on the face of it seems light-hearted and quirky has a serious purpose. An in-depth study found that looking after hens improves the health and wellbeing of older people, reducing depression, loneliness and the need for associated medication.
Northumberland County Councillor Scott Dickinson, chair of the health & wellbeing board, said:
“It’s really important for older people to keep busy and if they are able, to learn new skills and enjoy new experiences. Those involved in the project are not just interacting with the hens, but with each other, sharing their experiences and making new friendships.”
At the Briardale Centre the hens have all been named. Tina, Emma, Emily and Ruler (the bossy one) are already proving very popular especially with members of The Friendship Group.
One chicken enthusiast is Joyce Fletcher who attends the group: “I used to live on a farm when I was younger so the hens bring back happy memories for me. They are getting much tamer, are great fun and lovely to have around."