Sheffield City Farm is hosting animal-led events every week to create a supportive environment for people with dementia.
Lee Pearse, who runs the farm, said Heeley City Farm, located on Richards Road, hosts free-to-join, dementia-friendly “farm days” in the morning and afternoon that happen weekly.
The farm invites people with dementia to visit their wide range of animals that include goats, pigs, calves, reptiles and more.
Mr Pearse said: “Patients interacting with the animals allows for them to have more time outdoors, and going to a different place sometimes help.
“It’s just a different way of communicating.”
The charity-funded farm works to raise awareness for dementia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a form of dementia that can cause a loss of speech and language.
The patients come with loved ones or relatives and they interact with the animals, as well as participating in other activities, such as dancing, with the farm’s homemade instruments used for music.
The farm also takes their animals up to care homes to visit their patients.
Mr Pearse added: “About two weeks ago there was a lady who had a chicken on her lap for an hour. There’s just something going on. The chicken doesn’t move and she’s stroking the chicken’s head. We don’t even have to analyse it. There’s just something in that moment.
“You’ll find their carers or loved ones having a coffee and they’re all talking together, supporting each other in regard to what they’re going through.”
Interacting with animals has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety, and increases social interaction and the mood of patients.
It can also improve cognitive function.
Caring for animals can provide people with dementia with a sense of purpose, which can be especially important for those who may feel disconnected or isolated from the world around them.
The farm also works with vulnerable young people and adults with cognitive learning disabilities to complete animal care qualifications.
Mr Pearse said: “The community is what it’s all about, really. We’re all just like one big family.”
Mr Pearse currently teaches film at Sheffield Hallam University. His mother had FTD, which inspired him to host farm days.
The charity relies on donations to continue. If you are interested in donating, you can visit Heeley Farm at S2 3DT, or visit their donor website www.JustGiving.com/heeleycityfarm.