Enjoying the therapeutic effect of animals at Court Lodge.

Enjoying the therapeutic effect of animals at Court Lodge.

Longdown's mobile farm delights Colten Care home's residents and visitors.

Animal therapy at Colten Care's Court Lodge THERE was fur and feathers-a-plenty when care home residents were paid a visit by a mobile farm. Colten Care’s Court Lodge in Court Close, Lymington, played host to goats, pigs, ducks, chicks and even a donkey called Max. Farmer Ian Earls brought the menagerie from Longdown Activity Farm in Ashurst, near Southampton. Residents were able to hold and pet some of the animals, before feeding the greedy goats with giant milk bottles.

The home’s oldest resident, Joan Mackay, who will be 105 years old in October, was delighted when a 10-week old Cherry Valley Duck was named in her honour. Court Lodge activities organiser Julia Puia, said: “It was lovely to see the way the residents responded to the animals. Their faces lit up when holding the tiny chicks and stroking the cute pigs and goats.”

Colten Care's Joan Mackay will be 105 years oldResidents were joined for the visit by a large number of their friends, family and grandchildren. Julia continued: “Petting animals is very therapeutic as well as a lot of fun and it was heart warming to watch our residents enjoying them alongside the many children who were visiting.”


The health benefits of animals is increasingly being recognised as a great way to help deal with depression, anxiety and stress. Domestic animals come with some pretty powerful mental and physical health benefits. Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. 


How can the creatures have such a positive effect? There are a number of reasons according to Linda Blair, clinical psychologist. 


"First, we all find animals, particularly unusual ones, at first surprising and sometimes frightening, but then most often amusing. Their presence, particularly if it’s a creature we’ve never seen before, makes us smile and probably laugh, and this releases stress. When we laugh, we also release endorphin, and as a result, we’re less likely to feel pain.


Therapeutic effect of animals at Court LodgeSecond, an animal provides a talking point, a way to encourage those who may have withdrawn into themselves to start engaging with others. Just watch anyone walking their dog. People stop to ask questions about the animal, and this often leads to further conversation. Studies have shown that increased sociability is strongly associated with feelings of happiness and contentment.

Third, when we feed or stroke an animal, we’re helping to care for it. In 1975, Ellen Langer carried out a now-famous experiment in a care home where she showed that when residents were given the responsibility of looking after a house plant, they became more alert and reported greater wellbeing.

Finally, when we stroke a creature, we release oxytocin, a neuropeptide. Marcus Heinrichs at the University of Freiburg showed that oxytocin reduces anxiety and increases a sense of calm. Peter Kirsch at the University of Giessen noted reduced fear when oxytocin levels are high. Donatella Marazziti at Pisa University found that oxytocin reduces inflammation and increases wound healing. And most remarkable, Adam Guastella at Sydney University found that increased oxytocin levels were associated with greater emotional recognition in children with autistic spectrum disorder."


Linda Blair is a clinical psychologist. Her book, The Key to Calm (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99), is available from Telegraph Books for £12.99.




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