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Chicks hatch at care home in South Shields

Chick at Harton Grange Care Home

Older people living in care are welcoming in a brood of new residents this Spring.

Teaming up with creative ageing charity Equal Arts in Gateshead, staff and residents at Barchester's Harton Grange Care Home in South Shields are the latest to join the charity’s award-winning HenPower Project.

Known as the Harton Hinnies, the group of men and women hatched their new feathered friends which they’ll look after and tend to in their gardens on Bolden Lane.

Among the group was 100-year-old Nan Gallagher, she said: “I’ve got to be 100 and this was the first time I’ve held a tiny chick in my hands. It’s caused a stir at Harton Grange, everybody loves them. It’s been a great excitement for us all. I can say it was one of the best days of my life.”

First piloted in Gateshead in 2013, HenPower combines hens and creativity to reduce loneliness and improve the wellbeing of older people and those living with dementia.

Bev Wilson, deputy manager at Harton Grange said: “We’ve had singing and painting to celebrate their arrival and now the hens are here, residents, relatives and staff just love them.

“Residents have the opportunity to be responsible for raising the Harton Hinnies from chicks to hens, and this has been made possible by the support and help of Equal Arts, without this great organisation it wouldn’t be possible and we can’t thank them enough. To see the joy, the smile, the opportunities and the love it has brought to our residents, their families and the staff is amazing.”

The group has spent the past few months working with Equal Arts’ artist Betty Hill in weekly creative sessions.

Alongside learning about hen-keeping and the different breeds, they’ve been exploring their creativity making bunting, painting, felting and taking part in musical sessions.

Betty added: “It’s fantastic to see residents at Harton Grange benefiting from the project 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.”

Currently in more than 30 care settings across the UK, HenPower has been found to reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing during an independent study by Northumbria University.

Next for the Harton Hinnies will be painting the hen house ready for their feathered friends to move into.