Wonka and Plonka are from Happy Hooves, a not-for-profit organisation that supports aged care residents, youth at risk and people living with a disability through interaction with horses and donkeys.
On the morning of 28 January, Wonka and Plonka clopped through Strath-Haven’s memory support unit in Bendigo, entertaining residents and their families.
Lifestyle and Leisure Coordinator Kerryn Anderson said clinical research has found that close proximity to horses can change human brainwave patterns. Research suggests dementia sufferers can be transformed in a positive way when in the presence of horses.
“Miniature donkeys, a domesticated member of the horse family, are affectionate, comical and people-loving,” Ms Anderson said.
“They’re like a family dog – they are playful, instil calmness and give unconditional love.
“They’re also known to produce ‘happy endorphins’ in people through their behaviour and the way they interact, so having them at the site will help create a sense of wellbeing for our residents and let them revisit their love of animals.
“Interaction can be therapeutic, build self-esteem and provide anxiety relief to dementia sufferers.”
The memory support unit, set within the beautiful settings of Strath-Haven, is constantly buzzing with activities such as walks in sensory gardens, art therapy, sing-a-longs and gardening.
Ms Anderson says she has received much positive feedback from residents’ family members, impressed with the attentiveness and empathy of staff looking after and organising activities for their loved ones.
“Families tell me they really appreciate the staff organising activities such as scenic bus trips around the community in the afternoon to ward off restlessness,” she said.
Strath-Haven encourages visits from family pets, which enables residents to spend time with their furry companions.
During Christmas, a resident at Uniting AgeWell in Forest Hill was reunited with her beloved pet chihuahua just in time for Christmas. You can read more of her story here.