Creature Comforts is Whiddon’s animal-based wellbeing program. The program was developed in response to many of our residents asking for more animals in their aged care homes.
Creature Comforts is a co-design program and we partner with residents and families to choose the types of animals that they want in their home.
The aim of the program is to improve overall wellbeing, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase social connection by creating opportunities for residents to bond.
The program also has fantastic benefits around enabling residents to feel a sense of purpose through caring for the pets, and having animals around helps to create a more home-like environment.
At Whiddon, we recognise that animals have an important role as part of our wellbeing team, and we’ve given them the special title of Chief Happiness Officers to reflect this!
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, increase incidental exercise by getting people out and about, and also help increase social connection with others by enabling conversation and breaking down barriers.
Animal-assisted therapy programs like Creature Comforts also provide focus and act as a ‘stress buffer’, helping people develop or improve their coping mechanisms and feelings of purpose and contribution.
In addition to benefits like increased exercise and social connection, there are great therapeutic benefits from interacting with animals like reducing anxiety and depression. In short, having pets around often makes people happier!
Creature Comforts has four principle elements that make it more than just having a dog or cat living in (or visiting) the home, these are:
Social impact – the program aims to improve older people’s lives, bring in the wider community to help with the program (for example, volunteers and local experts), and involve rescue animals where possible.
Co-design – Creature Comforts is a co-design program. Our residents and families help us design the program, from the type of animal they want, to how the program runs and what level of involvement they want with the Creature Comforts pet at their home.
Social interaction and increased incidental exercise – The program has great benefits around increased exercise with the animals encouraging residents to get out and about more. There’s also opportunities for increased partnership between residents and staff with the program often being co-run, residents helping with the pet-care chores and daily routines and coming together to chat about the animals and walk them together.
Meaningful activity – having animals in the home, just like when you own a pet in your own home, comes with a care-taker role. This creates new roles for residents and helps people feel a real sense of purpose.