Rest home pet­ting zoo

The pets can often get de­men­tia pa­tients talk­ing be­cause they are ‘non-judge­men­tal’

The Northern Advocate - - Front Page - Dan­ica MacLean

The feel good ef­fect that an­i­mals have on el­derly peo­ple has been on full dis­play at a Whanga¯rei rest home. Ra­dius Pot­ter Home was one of five Whanga¯rei rest homes vis­ited by Auckland’s Pets As­sist­ing Ther­apy yesterday.

Around 20 res­i­dents gath­ered in the lounge to en­joy the com­pany of some furry and feath­ered friends.

Jeanette Kaw­iti was nes­tled in her chair, first with a rab­bit on her lap and then a small dog. Kaw­iti has her own cat, Charli, who lives with her at the home. “I’m pas­sion­ate about an­i­mals, I just love them.” She thought the visit from the an­i­mals was great.

Kaw­iti said it was hard to ex­plain but “some­thing spe­cial hap­pens when you stroke an­i­mals”.

Char­lotte Lane, from Pets As­sist­ing Ther­apy, said she comes north once a month to visit the rest homes.

She said the an­i­mals are meant to be re­ally calm­ing and peo­ple often fall asleep with the an­i­mals on their laps, or talk to them.

“It brings them a bit of joy.”

She said the an­i­mals can also get de­men­tia pa­tients talk­ing be­cause they are “non-judge­men­tal”. “They feel like they can con­fide in them.”

The an­i­mals change from month to month but can in­clude rab­bits, guinea pigs, birds, lizards, dogs, piglets, rats and lambs.

Res­i­dent Gwen Good­hue was sur­prised by how soft the three rats she had on her lap were.

It was the first time she’d touched rats, apart from once in a shop. “I think it’s lovely.” Fel­low res­i­dent Peter Locke had pic­tures of the bird and cat he used to own with him. “Some of the peo­ple get quite lonely, it’s good things like this can hap­pen.”

Pot­ter Home ac­tiv­i­ties co­or­di­na­tor Rox­anne Robin­son said the an­i­mals’ visit was in the name of pet ther­apy. “They [the res­i­dents] love an­i­mals, they love see­ing them, it makes them all happy. When they hear it’s [the visit] com­ing up, they’re like ‘you’ve got to let us know’.”

She said the res­i­dents’ faces light up when they have the an­i­mals on their laps.

Photos / Michael Cunningham

Ra­dius Pot­ter Home’s ac­tiv­i­ties co­or­di­na­tor Rox­anne Robin­son and Gwen Good­hue give the rats some at­ten­tion.

The birds spent time perched qui­etly on the shoul­ders of res­i­dents, right.Ra­dius Pot­ter Home staff mem­ber Iso­bel Grif­fiths has a cud­dle with one of the rab­bits, left.

Jeanette Kaw­iti gives An­nie a pat.

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