Residents at Kendal at Lexington had plenty of reason to smile on a bright spring day in April.

Lap Goats?

But it wasn’t the warm sunshine that made them beam. It was Fifi and Rooster, two tiny twin goats who ate up their delighted attention (and a little foliage, too).

Brought to the Borden Center by High Five Farms owner Kate Canine at the suggestion of her friend Katie Harlow, Kendal’s Resident Life Program Director, the six-week-old darlings were nuzzled, kissed, petted and generally loved to pieces by overjoyed residents and staff. Residents in the Webster Center were invited to cuddle them as well.

Joining the caprine babies in the courtyard was a larger goat about three months old, but the little twins were the perfect size for residents’ welcoming arms and laps.

Their Faces Say It All

“It was an amazing experience. The looks on residents’ faces said it all,” said Katie, who intends for the goats to return on a regular basis. While residents were able to feed the goats dry food, Katie hopes they can feed them from a bottle on future visits.

Thanks to a video capturing the experience created by Kate, a gifted photographer and videographer, viewers can see for themselves just how thrilled the seniors were to be up close and personal with the lovable, friendly creatures.

“One woman wasn’t sure she wanted to be near them,” remarked Katie, “but pretty soon, she was holding them and making kisses at them.”

Residents who remained inside on the hot day were treated to visits from the goats in their rooms.

“One kind woman pointed out a picture next to her chair. It was her as a child with a baby goat!” said Kate. “This experience took her back to her childhood.” Added Kate, another resident kept tapping her, then tapping her lap. “She wanted to hold the goats more than anyone; it brought tears to my eyes.”

The Healing Power of Animals

The value of communion with animals is well-documented, especially for older adults. Among others, benefits include reduced stress, anxiety and stress-related ailments, a boost in mood and natural “feel good” hormones and a sense of purpose, comfort, connectedness and overall well-being.

“Animals embody love,” said Kate. “There is no judgment or rejection, just acceptance. It’s a healing kind of love, one soul to another.”

According to Katie, another benefit of goat therapy (becoming ever more popular) is increased communication among seniors with cognitive or memory issues. “The goats bring out the desire to ‘baby talk’ to them, to connect with them verbally.”

Furry, Feathered and Fishy Friends

Goats are not the only animals to mingle with Kendal residents. Gideon, a chihuahua mix owned by resident life program assistant Jacquelyn Wheeler, is onsite so often, “he’s basically on the payroll!” quipped Katie.

A parakeet gets many greetings as residents pass his cage in the hallway, and a fish tank in the Webster Center is tended by residents who’ve taken ownership of feeding its inhabitants. 

“Animals change something in people,” remarked Katie. “Something for the better.”