7 July 2016

Tackling loneliness – with hens!

There’s a new weapon in the war against loneliness among older people in Brighton & Hove – hens.

The Rose Hill Court seniors housing block in Brighton is the first in Sussex to have the company of a group of feathered friends.

It’s a joint venture between Brighton & Hove City Council and the ‘Henpower’ project, run by the charity Equal Arts.

Vulnerable people often find interacting with animals calming and therapeutic. Henpower aims to help older people who are feeling isolated or lonely to build positive relationships through hen-keeping and increase feelings of wellbeing.

The hens are also a catalyst for arts activities that are helping to bring residents together and encouraging them to develop their own skills and abilities.

Hens can also be of great interest to children, so the project can also be a basis for building bridges across the generations.

The benefits can be huge, including:

  • improved wellbeing and reduced loneliness
  • reduced depression
  • reduced agitation in residents
  • reduced use of anti-psychotic medication.

The chair of the council’s housing committee, Councillor Anne Meadows, said: “Social isolation and loneliness are massive issues for many older people. It’s been said that loneliness can be almost as bad for older people’s health as smoking.

“In an era of huge pressures on budgets it’s important to remember that sometimes simple ideas can make a massive difference. We’re committed to working creatively with our residents to help improve their wellbeing.”

Linda Barratt is the manager of Rose Hill Court. She said: “It’s been lovely to bring a more rural and natural feel to a very urban setting.

“Having the hens here is already making a difference. It’s amazing how much our staff and residents have taken to this new project.

“The hens are beautiful and it’s just so much fun! It’s daft but if you talk to them they seem to coo back at you.”

Equal Arts co-director Douglas Hunter said: “HenPower gives people a role and responsibility, it is not hen-therapy but about building relationships.

“HenPower moves away from passive care you so often see in care settings and harnesses people’s imagination and interests to empower themselves.

“It is fantastic to see Brighton & Hove City Council embracing the project with such enthusiasm.”