As organisations across the country look at ways to reduce loneliness and isolation among older people, a group of residents from a Hanover Housing Association retirement estate in Hertford have found a unique way to socialise with friends and neighbours whilst improving their general wellbeing.
A few months ago Gary Clark, the estate manager of the Braziers Field development, discovered HenPower, a creative arts programme with a difference. Run by creative ageing charity Equal Arts, the HenPower Project aims to reduce isolation and loneliness amongst older people through arts activities and hen-keeping.
After raising some initial funds to help get the project underway, the residents approached Equal Arts and Hanover’s in-house small grant programme “Green shoots” to help fund the innovative initiative. As a result, they were able to welcome four new feathered friends to the estate.
The arrival of the clucking birds ushered in the formation of a new resident group known as the “Wing Commanders”. Every day they take it in turns to open and muck out the coop, feed and water the chickens, and collect any freshly laid eggs. What was once a forgotten corner of the estate is now visited several times each day by the dedicated team who enjoy gathering to catch up on the local gossip while looking after the chickens.
Gary Clarke, Estate Manager at Hanover Housing Association said: ‘I have to admit at first I was a little sceptical. However since the chicken coop has arrived it has turned out to be a welcome addition to our estate. HenPower is proving to be an essential key to providing an on-going source of activity for residents and there is some great social interaction.’
Braziers Field resident, 86-year-old Mary Laverick said: ‘This is a wonderful idea and provides much discussion and amusement amongst my fellow neighbours. What’s more, thanks to our gregarious brood I often enjoy having freshly laid eggs for my breakfast!’
Set up in 2012, HenPower is now in over 40 care settings with projects in Australia, the Netherlands and Taiwan.
Douglas Hunter, Equal Arts co-director, said: ‘It is fantastic to see residents at Braziers Field joining the thousands across the UK who benefit from HenPower and the creative opportunities it brings.
‘HenPower gives people a role and responsibility. It builds relationships and moves away from passive care you so often see in care settings. It harnesses people’s imagination and interests to empower themselves.’
An independent 12-month evaluation of the project by Northumbria University found it is improving the health and wellbeing of older people and reducing depression and loneliness in older people.
Hanover is still the only national housing association to be awarded the RSPCA Community Animal Welfare Foot Print for its contribution to improving animal welfare.