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Seniors are Befriending Hens Because Their Families Aren't Visiting

David Charlton/Equal Arts

For some lonely seniors, they have come to make poultry their new best friend.

While this isn't the first time elders have taken to animals as a form of comfort, a group of residents at a dementia care center have found companionship with a group of hens.

Back in 2012, an elderly man constantly told the center's staff he missed his "girls." Unsure of what he meant, they would eventually realize the senior was referring to the hens he raised years ago.

According to ecorazzi, the nurses wanted to fulfill his wish, so they asked asked Douglas Hunter, the director of Equal Arts - a charity that provides creative projects for seniors - if he could provide the residence with a couple of chickens.

"Our main reservation was whether the staff would be annoyed by them, and wouldn’t have time to look after them," Hunter said.

Despite being weary, Equal Arts decided to purchase six hens and a secondhand hen house.

Luckily, Hunter's fears were later unfounded when the program, later dubbed "HenPower," would turn out to be a major success: the staff and seniors loved spending time with the poultry.

Due to the positive feedback, Equal Arts received funding to expand the program to eight other care homes. One of the locations chosen was Wood Green, an assisted living facility in Gateshead, Newcastle in England, who received 13 hens and 15 chicks for their 72 residents.

Thomas 'Ossie' Cresswell has been actively involved in HenPower and said the chickens have rescued him from unbearable loneliness. Those who care for the hens work together to feed, water, and bath the animals, while also cleaning up their coups and collecting their eggs.

"Me and the wife used to go everywhere together, but when she died 10 years ago she left me on my own," Cresswell said. "My life has been a lot fuller since we’ve had these hens. I think I’d be lost without them."

Despite HenPower taking place at senior care homes, it isn't required for the seniors to live in the facility in order for them participate in the program.

The seniors often take their feathery friends to visit schools and other care homes, where more people are given the opportunity to play with the hens.

Tommy Appleby said he was completely at a loss after the passing of his beloved wife. He decided to join the program when he met a HenPower member at a cemetery, where he realized he only lived three miles from Wood Green.

While Appleby said the joining HenPower was nerve-wrecking at first but now cherishes spending time with the group.

“Taking part was difficult at first," he added. "Now I love the other fellows - they really know hens.”

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Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com