SEPT 18, 2013: Older people in the Gateshead area have got the chicken keeping bug in a big way – thanks to an initiative called HenPower

Older people in the Gateshead area have got the chicken keeping bug in a big way – thanks to an initiative called HenPower A hen keeping project in the North East is proving a big hit with residents at care homes. The ‘Hensioners’ have found such fulfillment in keeping chickens that they not only look after them but even organise a hens ‘roadshow’ and take birds into other care homes and schools. Jos Forester-Melville, leader of the HenPower project, said: “It’s an innovative, exciting project. We’ve teamed up with eight supported living schemes and are encouraging older people to engage in activities which will bring about long-term benefits and boost motivation. “The project is designed to bridge the gap between independent and supported living and demonstrate that being in a care setting doesn’t mean that you have to give up your independence or engagement with the things that you’ve always liked. Indeed, it can offer up opportunities to try new things, like keeping hens!” HenPower, which is funded by both the Heritage and Big Lottery Funds, and backed by Equal Arts, is aimed predominantly at older men, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to design bespoke chicken coops, choose rare breed hens and hatch and rear their own chicks. In their ‘roadshow’ they take their ‘henthusiasm’ to share with others, explaining first hand what it is like to enjoy and share responsibilities at a time in life when most people are slowing down and not stepping into wellies. Ozzy Cresswell, a retired welder from Bill Quay, in east Gateshead, says: “I never thought I’d get to 87 and be doing something like this. Mind we have a laugh. We could talk under water about hens.” Retired taxi driver and henthusiast Alan Richards says: “Since the hens have come we never stop. Albert lets them out of a morning. Owen’s always digging for worms and cleaning them out, and I like to muck in where I can. We’ve just hatched a load of chicks, some in an incubator and some under a broody hen. It was amazing.” On seeing her residents embrace their newly hatched arrivals, one sheltered scheme officer said: “HenPower is so diverse. We would never have thought about doing anything like this. It’s improved people’s wellbeing. It’s made people happier because they’ve got to know each other in ways that they never did. Who ever thought you’d get tears in your eyes seeing your residents watch chicks hatch.” It’s hoped that HenPower can be rolled out nationally next year when Equal Arts have developed a series of online e-resources. * You can find out more about HenPower by following them on Facebook or by going to their website CAPTIONS: ‘Hensioner’ Ozzy holds a Silver Laced Wyandotte A care home resident gets acquainted with one of the birds

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