The secret life of pets at Oak Towers
‘Love me like a Reptile’ is a mobile reptile show, providing educational and unique encounters with wildlife. They brought snakes and frogs for residents to hold, and staff were there to support those who might’ve had trouble holding up a heavy python!
“This kind of thing opens up the opportunity to share stories of previous encounters with wildlife, and some people really overcame their fears by getting involved with these animals.” Monica McCarthy, Lifestyle Coordinator says.
There were some more eager than others, with one gentlemen, Alwyn, adamant that he would not be touching any of the creatures, but by the end was patting the snakes and holding a frog - pictured below.
Reptile visits are a once-a-year special event at Oak Towers, but Pet Therapy happens every week.
The Animal Welfare League Australia (AWLA) state that many people who enter into aged care deeply grieve leaving their pets behind and often these feelings are long lasting. Oak Towers has spent several years building their own unique Pet Therapy program to provide comfort to residents, and to assist in decreasing feelings of anxiety and isolation as pets offer affection and unconditional love.
“We have 2 guinea pigs, cockatiels and budgies, a goldfish and a cat, and we will be getting some rabbits in the warmer months – residents really light up when they get to hold and cuddle the animals. And everyone stops for a chat with the birds”
The Pet Therapy program benefits residents’ physical and emotional wellbeing, offering them an interactive experience that stimulates senses and connects them with one another through reminiscing and storytelling. Caring for the animals provides a sense of purpose and they’re just so darn cute!
The animal-loving residents at Oak Towers are spreading the love to the broader community. A group of regular knitters create pouches that get sent off to a local animal shelter to hold baby possums and rescued animals. And during the bush fires a couple of years ago, the residents rallied together to make food for the injured animals.
“I think everything we do is centred around animals” Monica laughs. “Residents have enjoyed watching baby chicks hatch in the incubator, a visit from horses and we even had a donkey here once!”
“I can’t stress the importance of it enough. It can change someone’s whole demeanor.” Monica says.
“A calmness comes. Someone might be quiet and not communicating much, but engaging with animals can really change their mood. It opens up the channel of communication, and they have a chat to the animals, which may lead to chatting to other people more openly too.”
Residents at Oaks Towers have time with animals, with the opportunity for cuddling holding, and grooming them every week.