We were fortunate enough today to be able to tag along for with De Ark van Noah (Noah’s Ark). De Ark van Noah is a not-for-profit service that brings animals into the lives of disabled and elderly people. And it’s absolutely brilliant in every way.
The Ark includes all sorts of animals, big and small including a pig, sheep, miniature cow, donkey, cats, dogs, chickens, a rooster, rabbits and a guinea pig. Each animal has been specially chosen for it’s placid and gentle nature. They live their lives in the way other animals of this sort do. The donkey lives in a field, the pig lives in a sty, the dogs live in people’s homes and the cats live on a farm. But when there is a booking, the animals are all gathered together in a specially fitted van and taken to visit the clients.
We sat and watched as elderly people with dementia patted cats, played a singing song game with one of the dogs, talked to the guinea pigs, giggled at the rabbits and one guy was even supported to take a dog for a walk like he used to when he lived at home. The sheep slept at one lady’s feet and the pig snuffled around the room exploring the scents and eating the lettuce leaves dropped off the laps of the people holding guinea pigs. Each person petting an animal had a little mat placed on their lap to protect them from dirt and animals were moved around as needed. It was amazing to see people who might otherwise be non-verbal or just sitting in their chairs come to life as they felt the soft animal fur in their hands.
Paul has been working in disability and aged care for over a quarter of a century and said he’s never come across this type of activity at home. There are petting zoos for children but not this type of interactive initiative that allows the elderly or others to have animals sit on their laps. Perhaps it exists and he hasn’t come across it but then it must not be so common.
I have been so impressed by the range of accessible and inclusive services available in Holland. There was the ropes course that you can use with a wheelchair, the normality of mobility bikes including those for wheelchairs and side-by-side tandems, and now the Ark just enhances my perception of how much is lacking in Australia. It’s a question of population and money. Just purchasing the wheelchair bike has set me back about $AU9,000 and that’s before I get the bill for import duty and Australia’s Goods and Services Tax. So I can understand that there are barriers for us being on the other side of the world. And things are changing with beach wheelchairs now being produced in Australia (I purchased one late in 2015 but even there the cost was $AU4,500) and a greater push for accessibility. But wouldn’t it be amazing to have an Ark van Noah at home to bring the joy of animals into our aged care homes (yes, I know … hygiene etc but if it can be done in Holland then why not in Australia).