Hats off to HenPower! Hen-keeping in care homes
HenPower is a project undertaken by arts organisation, Equal Arts. The project aims to creatively engage older people in art-related activities and hen-keeping, promoting health and well-being and reducing loneliness.
The HenPower story
The HenPower project has an interesting story, with a humble albeit rather intriguing beginning. Members of the Equal Arts charity were working in a care home where one of the residents kept talking about missing his girls. It dawned on staff that he was referring to his chickens, prompting the charity to ask if they could help out. They bought six hens and set up a chicken coop in the garden, with staff and residents rising to the challenge of looking after the hens.
From here, Equal Arts developed a weekly programme of creative activities around the chickens, such as feather printing and creative writing. The project proved so popular that the charity decided to introduce it to other care homes. Since 2012, HenPower has been rolled out to more than 50 care facilities across the UK, with providers including Orchard Care, Anchor, Akari Care and Bondcare. The project has gained significant coverage too, including this great article from The Guardian newspaper.
The HenPower project is supporting some 700 residents in more than 20 care homes across north-east England
The HenPower mission
The HenPower project aims to...
- Empower older people to build positive relationships through hen-keeping with improved well-being, reduced loneliness and reduced depression
- Help care settings offer relationship centred care meeting older peoples needs and embrace "living with care as opposed to "caring for
- Create lasting change by supporting older people in care settings to get involved with schools, festivals and community events
- Support Resident and Relative Committees within care settings to provide meaningful activities which embrace creative ageing
- Provide social care staff with excellent skill transfer and professional development opportunities.
The project is combating loneliness
Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health. Research revealed by Holt-Lunstad in 2010 stated that, 'lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.' HenPower helps vulnerable older people gain a sense of purpose and being part of something worthwhile.
Working in dementia care settings, the benefits of the project are plain to see. Staff are reporting reduced agitation in residents and reduced use of anti-psychotic medication. A 12-month study of HenPower carried out by Northumbria University found the HenPower, not only improved health and well-being, it also reduced depression and loneliness in the older people it was provided for. View the report.
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
Ossie Cresswell, Pensioner
HenPower testimonial: Pat Cain
Pat Cain is in her seventies and cared for her husband Les, firstly at home, then through regular visits to the local hospital, and finally by visiting him every day at the Wood Green care home where he passed away. After years of hard work caring for her husband, Pat became a resident of the Wood Green care home herself, and started to participate in the HenPower project. Here's her thoughts...
I started to come to HenPower meetings and I realised that people were friendly and I responded to that. Then I got more drawn in. I thought it was a very good idea and I started to see the benefits. Then I started to get involved in Hen Road Shows. When we go into homes and we work with people with dementia, I can recognise and understand what they are going through and how carers are feeling. I know what it's like to have a husband and then for him not to be there even though in reality he's sitting next to you, though he doesn't know you anymore.
When I see hens going into homes I think it's just a brilliant idea. I love working in schools with the children. It makes me feel young again. I was talking to a little girl from Slovakia in a school and we were talking all about the chickens.
I feel like I'm needed again. (Source: HenPower Website)
The HenPower project now offers 'Hen Roadshows' and works actively in not only care homes, but also schools and other care-related facilities.