Therapy Horses Visit Seniors During COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Whatcom County back in early March, most senior care facilities immediately their regular Mobile ANT visits and quarantined residents. A little over three months later, these facilities are still closed to the public, and we have been missing our elder friends.
In May, our staff decided that we wanted to bring our animals to visit seniors once again ~ but how to do this safely? Jessie Pemble, ANT’s Director of Outreach & Mobile ANT, had the idea to take our big horses to walk around facilities and visit through windows!
Our pilot visit was to Silverado Memory Care in Bellingham, one of our regular Mobile ANT sites.
Wow, we were overwhelmed by our first visit back. What a beautiful & emotional experience. Therapy horses Obi (short for Obrigado) & Moonshadow inspired smiles, laughter, and even song among the residents & staff, who could be seen mouthing “thank you” through the windows as we visited. We made two trips around the building, stopping at individual rooms as well as gathering & dining spaces, where folks lined the windows to wave hello. We got to greet one special resident celebrating her 104th birthday! Amazing!
We held back tears many times connecting with people through their windows. Some were talking to the horses through the glass, or simply admiring the animals from their bed. One woman began to sing as Moonshadow drew close, and she reached out her hands as if to touch her, letting them rest on the window as she gazed at the horse.
A staff member shared with us that the horses had engaged a number of people who often isolate themselves or who don’t participate as often in activities. She was deeply moved to see them interacting with such joy. We learned that one resident, who followed us from room to room enraptured by the horses, was involved in the early years of the Pendleton Rodeo – wow!
As we made our way around the campus, we found smiling faces waiting excitedly (news spread quickly of our arrival), but we also surprised a number of folks not expecting to see a big horse outside their bedroom window! We certainly caught the attention of the neighborhood, too; cars slowed on Cordata Parkway to take photos, and passersby couldn’t believe their eyes! Seems like everyone could use a little equine novelty in their life these days…
Unfortunately, in the midst of this wonderful visit, we also learned that a few of our elder friends had passed away since our last Mobile ANT visit in late February. While Silverado has thankfully NOT been affected by COVID, we are heartbroken to have missed our chance to say goodbye. We build real relationships with those we visit, and know most residents by name. Our hearts go out to their families, and to the amazing Silverado staff, for this loss.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to share our animals in this way, and even happier to learn that Silverado wants us to come visit every week (yay!). If you’d like to support these visits financially and help us continue to bring joy to isolated seniors, donations are welcomed & appreciated.
Gifts can be made here: https://www.animalsasnaturaltherapy.org/donate