Things were hopping at Nightingale House last Thursday as the Clapham care home introduced six new residents to launch its farm — four rabbits and two guinea pigs.
Funded by the Six Point Foundation, supporting Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees, the farm project adds to Nightingale’s therapy and entertainment programme for residents with dementia. They can feed and pet the animals under volunteer supervision and move them from their hutches into running units in the garden.
The animals will also be taken around Nightingale’s five wings, so that all 180 residents have the opportunity to play with them.
Nightingale assistant director Sally Miller said research had shown that caring for small animals could help lower blood pressure, alleviate stress and improve motor skills in the elderly. It could also rekindle childhood memories.
To celebrate the launch, a group of the home’s keenest animal lovers were invited to a tea party. They tucked into carrot cake while the furry arrivals feasted on carrot sticks nearby.
“We always had cats so it’s lovely to have animals around again,” said 93-year-old David Brook. “My wife is ill in bed upstairs. She’ll be very pleased when they’re taken to visit her.”
Daphne Lang, 87, was particularly delighted, having kept rabbits before moving into Nightingale two years ago. “I can’t believe I have them again. I’ve not been well lately and have had a couple of unpleasant nights, but I’m feeling much better today.”
Less impressed was Betty Weinberg, 94. “Rabbits? Give me a snake and I’ll hold that,” she said.