Guests gather in suits of black and white to fulfil Care UK wish initiative

Mavis Ede resident of Care UK’s Highmarket House in Banbury holds the visiting Humbolt Penguin Charlie as part of the wishing tree initiative where residents can have their wishes granted.
Matthew Power Photography

A  Care UK initiative to fulfil the wishes of residents living in its 125 care homes led to the arrival of two rather unusual visitors this week.


Mavis, an 85-year-old resident at Care UK’s Highmarket House in Banbury, had told her care team her greatest wish was to see penguins. So they immediately set to work to make it happen and gave her the surprise of her life when two friendly penguins arrived in the lounge of her care home.


The visit was part of the home’s ‘Wishing Tree’ Initiative, which encourages residents to put wishes forward. The initiative is designed to allow them to reconnect with a past hobby or try something completely new. This may well include flying on a plane to enjoying a fish and chip supper; no wish is too big or small.


Mavis was amazed when the hand-reared Humboldt penguins, Pringle and Charlie, waddled into the room. She was delighted to interact with the penguins, stroking and even holding Charlie on her lap.


The penguins were brought into the home by Amazing Animals, and are friendly, relaxed and used to human contact. They live in a specially constructed enclosure, including a swimming pool, pebbled beach and penguin house at Heythrop Zoological Gardens. They are kept together in a breeding group to ensure regular social interactions.


Originating from South America, the animals are used to warm weather and can adjust to different environments. The penguins regularly meet new people and attend workshops and educational talks all around the UK, which aim to raise the general public’s awareness of conservation matters.


Jo Pohl, home manager at Highmarket House, said: “At our care home with a difference we always like to go the extra mile for residents and make their wishes come true – no matter how unusual. Mavis has often talked about penguins with passion, so we were excited to be able to make her dream of seeing them up close come true.


“We don’t accept that life at a care home has to be a particular way – we ensure there are no limitations to activities residents pursue and help them to lead independent, fulfilling lives; however, they choose.


“Each day at our care home is different and fun, but today was something extraordinary. It was a truly wonderful moment when Mavis met the penguins and certainly created a stir in the home – we’ll be talking about this for weeks!”


Highmarket House is a state-of-the-art care home which provides full-time residential, dementia, nursing and short-term respite care. The home, which features 73 en-suite bedrooms, has been designed to enable its residents to live active and fulfilled lives, while also promoting independence. The care home incorporates space for hobby and leisure activities and includes its own cinema, hairdressing salon and café.



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