A nursing home has recruited a herd of alpacas and a host of other animals to keep residents company in animal therapy sessions.
Hadleigh Nursing Home, run by Kingsley Healthcare in Ipswich, Suffolk, specialises in care for elderly people with dementia and decided to add the classes to the activity schedule after a successful trial.
The first time the pensioners and alpacas met, care workers said that residents who didn’t normally talk or engage with their peers were animated, excited and had their mood lifted.
The residents have taken to the alpacas so much, the care home has decided to permanently adopt two called Echo and Goose.
The South American animals belong to Jo Bridge, who keeps a herd of 60 alpacas at her farm and is working alongside several care homes in the area.
“They are such an enchanting animal with a gentle nature,” Bridge told East Anglian Daily Times: “They lean forward and touch your face with their noses. We call them alpaca kisses.
“We were told one lady did not talk very much and might not even get out of the car. In fact, she had her carers in tears as she happily walked with an alpaca and chatted away.”
And they aren’t the only animals who have been a hit with residents – the care home has welcomed teams with snakes, giant snails and rats to other homes in their branches.
Bridge also works with groups of children with special needs, taking them on alpaca walks.
She previously kept horses and goats, but acquired her first alpacas in 2012.