Date: 23 October 2019

A group of very special canines have been promoted to the newly created role of ‘Chief Happiness Officer’  in aged care homes across Australia. Their title marks the launch of a new animal-based wellbeing program called Creature Comforts

Bingo the Toy Poodle/Mini Foxie, Milo the Dachshund, and Angus the Labrador are among some of the adorable recruits taking on the role, which comes with its very own uniform and responsibilities. The job description includes providing companionship, smiles, and laughter to residents, as well as encouraging incidental exercise and stronger social connections in the home. 

Benefits of animals in aged care

The Creature Comforts program partners with residents and families to choose the types of animals that they wish to have around them in the residential home.

The aim is to improve wellbeing, reduce anxiety and depression, increase social connection and help reduce feelings of social isolation and loneliness. The program also brings a range of benefits for residents through caring for the pets and helps to create a more home-like environment. 

Research indicates that regular interaction with animals can have a therapeutic effect for people of all ages. Caring for and interacting with a pet can lower stress levels and also help increase social connection with others. Animal related programs such as Creature Comforts can also provide focus and act as a ‘stress buffer’, helping individuals develop or improve their coping mechanisms and feelings of purpose and contribution, as well as increasing incidental exercise.1 

Karn Nelson, Head of Strategy and Innovation at Whiddon, says that having animals around in residential care homes can bring comfort to older people and create stronger communities by offering opportunities for staff, residents and visiting family and friends to bond over the company and care of animals.

“Giving these animals the affectionate title of ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ is a symbolic way for us to recognise the enormous contribution they make to the daily lives of residents and as part of our wider care team. Creature Comforts also aims to engage our local communities through attracting volunteers, visitors, and local pet experts to our homes,” she says. 

Creature Comforts at Whiddon

Animal programs such as Creature Comforts and HenPower, an award-winning program previously launched by Whiddon which saw residents care for and rear chooks, are popular at Whiddon homes and have proven to offer numerous health and wellbeing benefits to residents.

The animals in the Creature Comforts program range from a mix of rescue animals, former guide dogs, and family pets.