A PROJECT linking older people with chickens and creativity to combat loneliness is spreading its wings.

Over the next three years HenPower, run by the Equal Arts charity, will launch in new venues across the country with more projects in County Durham.

Launched in 2012, HenPower combines hen-keeping and creative sessions led by artists to improve wellbeing and reduce isolation among older people and those with dementia.

The project links residents with schools and community groups to build relationships and encourage cross-generational learning.

Lindsay Sale-Thorn, from Pelton Grange Care Home, in Chester-le-Street, one of the latest venues to join the project, said: “In the short time we’ve been a part of the project it’s already proven beneficial.

“It’s been interesting to see how residents respond to the hens, especially those who would not normally venture outside. Having them here has sparked new conversation and it’s been hugely rewarding.”

Figures compiled by Alzheimer’s Research UK state more than 530,000 people had received a dementia diagnosis by August 2018 with this number expected to rise to more than a million by 2025.

Douglas Hunter, Equal Arts chief executive, said: “HenPower gives people a role and responsibility. It moves away from the passive care you often see in care settings, supporting people to explore their creativity and form new relationships with schools, volunteers and groups in their community.”

The roll out has been made possible with funding of £72,000 over three years awarded by Durham Freemasons and brings with it a host of volunteering opportunities.

Michael Shaw from Durham Freemasons said: “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help HenPower with their outstanding work bringing together older people, school pupils and community volunteers. This is a really exciting and effective way of helping older people who are at risk of loneliness and isolation as well as those living with dementia.”