Sheffield dementia victims make friends with chickens to help combat loneliness

People living with dementia in Sheffield were given the chance to interact with chickens for the day.
People living with dementia in Sheffield were given the chance to interact with chickens for the day.

People living with dementia in Sheffield have been making friends with chickens - in a bid to combat loneliness.

The event allowed people with dementia in the city to interact with the animals - and those involved have been dubbed "hen-sioners."

The HenPower scheme was organised as part of the the University of Sheffield’s Festival of Social Sciences along with charities Age UK Sheffield and Equal Arts.

The scheme brings older people and chickens together to combat loneliness and depression and improve wellbeing.

The aptly dubbed ‘Hensioners’ are encouraged to hen-keep, caring for the chickens by ensuring they are fed and watered, collecting eggs and interacting with them through the creative arts, which equally benefits both hen and hensioner.

At the event, hosted at Norfolk Heritage Park in Sheffield, people living with dementia got the chance to be hensioners for the day.

They met the chickens from HenPower and were able to handle them and interact with them for the morning. They also had the chance to put their artistic skills into practice and created chicken inspired art, something that Equal Arts routinely encourage.

Dr Andrea Wigfield, Director of Care Connect at the University of Sheffield said: “The event was a perfect example of how simple and easy it is to help curb loneliness in older people and those living with dementia. Here at the University of Sheffield we have some of the world leaders in social science research, many of whom conduct extensive and ground breaking research into loneliness and wellbeing.

“This one of a kind event is not the first time the University of Sheffield has researched and examined wellbeing and loneliness.

"One of the most important issues societies face today is loneliness. This event was not only a positive day for all involved but will also help us examine loneliness in greater detail.”

Douglas Hunter, Co-Director of Equal Arts, said: “A 12-month independent study of HenPower found it reduces loneliness and depression in older people and those living with dementia. We hear regularly how bringing hen-keeping and creativity together is hugely benefiting those involved.

“It’s amazing to have gone from such humble beginnings in one care setting in the North East to supporting thousands of older people and communities across England and globally.”

Steve Chu, CEO of Age UK Sheffield said: “We were delighted to bring HenPower to our Wellbeing Centre and our customers loved the event. The experience we provide to people with dementia and memory loss at the Wellbeing Centre is high quality and informed by academic research, so this was a great event to be involved in.”

The event, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council is part of the wider ESRC Festival of Social Sciences, which hosts free events across Sheffield and gives the public a chance to immerse themselves in world leading social science research and engage with academics from across Sheffield.