The team at a brand new care home where the first residents only moved in just before Christmas has already embraced Care UK’s wishing tree initiative in style by fulfilling a life-long wish to feed a real penguin.
The visit was specially organised by the home team to surprise Annie Thelwell, a 92-year-old resident at Mountbatten Grange. A lifelong animal lover, Annie always wears a penguin-shaped pendant and has filled her memory box with photos of the friendly animals. Annie, one of the first residents in the new Windsor care home, had made a wish on the home’s wishing tree to see penguins, but wasn’t expecting to be able to meet them up quite so close.
Many Care UK care home teams arrange visits by other animals including dogs, alpacas, donkeys, goats and lizards but this is the first time in the providers 30 year history that penguins have waddled into a home.
The team at the home is led by Saad Baig – who as home manager at another site made the headlines by arranging for a Catholic priest to visit the pope and for a lady in her 80s to have her first driving lesson.
The hand-reared Humboldt penguins, named Pringle and Charlie, were brought into the home by a company called Amazing Animals which provides animals for things like film work. The penguins were friendly, relaxed and used to human contact. Both were happy to walk around the home and took the lift in their stride. One even settled down for a nap after enjoying a hearty lunch of fresh fish from the residents at the home.
When embarking on fulfilling the wish, Care UK was keen to put the welfare of the birds first and foremost. When not out ‘working’ Charlie and Pringle live in a specially constructed enclosure, including a swimming pool, pebbled beach and penguin house at Heythrop Zoo and live together in a breeding group to ensure regular social interactions.
Originating from South America, this species is used to warm weather and can adjust to different environments which meant they were quite at home waddling round Mountbatten Grange.
Home manager, Saad Baig, said: “We always like to go the extra-mile for residents here at Mountbatten Grange, and make their wishes come true, no matter how small – or unusual. Annie talks about penguins with a passion, so we were really excited to be able to make her dream of seeing one up close come true. We managed to keep the visit a complete surprise, so it was incredible to see her face light up when they waddled into the care home – they are truly wonderful creatures and it was a fantastic moment for everyone involved.
“The penguins were so friendly, and we know just how beneficial animal therapy can be for older people – especially for those living with dementia. Being close to animals can help lift a person’s mood, stimulate social interaction and ease agitation – and the penguins were brilliant at doing just that!”