A Hertfordshire care home was turned into a petting zoo for the day as residents welcomed a variety of exotic and interesting creatures to promote and stimulate mental wellbeing.
Foxholes Care Home, near Hitchin, welcomed several reptiles, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates to its grounds courtesy of Animal Therapy service, ZooLabs, enabling residents and staff to hold, pet and take pictures with the animals.
All residents from every floor joined in together in the Orangery, which was filled with shrieks of shock and delight as residents and staff were placed in close confinement with snakes, rats, cockroaches, geckos and even a Chilean Rose Tarantula.
Animal-assisted therapy is recognised as an occupational therapy within psychology and is formed on the basis that animals bring people together, helping people see things from a different perspective and to cope in the most adverse situations.
The experience resonated closely with resident, Shirley Benfield, 89, who used to have a pet Axolotl, which helped explain her lack of fear when getting up close with several reptiles – including a Gold Snake.
Shirley said she “loved” the session, and couldn’t contain her joy, having entwined herself with the slender, scaly-skinned serpent, before blowing the “extraordinary” creature a kiss as it was escorted away.
Neil Gandecha, estate manager at Foxholes Care Home, said: “Our activities team really went animal crackers with this one. The animals were enormously popular with the residents and it was so lovely to enjoy an activity like this after all the residents have been through during the past 18 months.”
He continued: “The unique experience has proven to be an excellent way to give our residents some joy, while also, and importantly, allowing them to have the time and space to address their emotional wellbeing in a supportive environment. Looking after the mental wellbeing of our residents has always been at the forefront of our ethos at Foxholes, while it was interesting to learn of the benefits animal therapy can have on someone’s life. We can’t thank the team at ZooLab enough and I hope we can cross paths with all the exotic animals again in the near future.”