The Western Australian Shire of Kellerberrin is definitely farm country.
Located 205 kilometers east of Perth, this small country town in the heart of the states ‘Wheatbelt’ has a population of less than 1000 and routinely endures some of Australia’s hottest temperatures throughout the summer months.
And while weather conditions in this part of the country can be tough, nothing out that way is stronger or more resilient than some of the elderly members of the community who have lived out their entire lives in this farming region.
And many of these people now call the Baptistcare Dryandra residential aged care facility home.
Fortunately, there have been a number of serious innovations within the aged care industry over the last few years, and one of the most exciting areas of study revolves around utilising cues from an elderly person’s younger years to help rekindle old feelings and memories.
Things that are positive and familiar have a way of drawing a smile out of people from all walks of life, and for elderly people with cognitive impairment, sadly, these smiles can often be few and far between, which make them extremely valuable.
Another successful initiative within the realms of aged care has been allowing aged care residents to interact with animals. This technique, often referred to as ‘pet therapy,’ can have an extremely joyous and calming effect on all those involved.
Baptistcare has spent over 45 years providing support and residential care options for many senior Western Australians, but when it came to finding something to warm the hearts and minds of those from the farming areas of the Kellerberrin region, they decided to look inward rather than outward for inspiration.
Katherine and Silver are the names of the two amazing miniature horses that visited Baptistcare’s Dryandra nursing home facility recently and were an instant hit amongst residents and staff alike.
These two adorable ponies helped spark a number of positive memories for a number of the elderly residents, many of which who grew up handling horses in their farming home environments.
According to Dryandra’s lifestyle coordinator, Shizuka Yokoi, interacting and patting the little ponies resonated with many residents who had lived on farms or who had horses growing up.
“We saw residents who were often quite shy, smile and laugh when the ponies came up to them.”
“Having access to horses and ponies is one of the benefits of living in the country in Western Australia,” she said.
Jonelle Tiller, who owns Katherine and Silver said the response was so good she intends to bring her ponies to Dryandra on a regular basis.
“I was very happy to see the positive effect the visit had on so many residents and I couldn’t be more pleased,” she said.
Jonelle runs a farm a few kilometers north of Dryandra in the Western Australian Wheatbelt where Katherine and Silver live alongside her daughter’s 10-year-old Welsh Cob, namedFleur.
“They do everything together, including eating and sleeping.”
“They are gentle souls who love human contact and while they might be in my care now, they were trained to socialise by their previous owner in Albany,” she said.
The effect that an animal can have on a person is nothing short of magical.
People spend years interacting with beloved family pets that provide happiness, inspiration, and companionship.
And when you consider just how much of a problem social isolation and depression are for many elderly Australians, it’s impossible to understate just how beneficial these types of experiences can be.