Penguins waddle into Heathfield Court Care Home

Penguins waddle into Heathfield Court Care Home zoom

Two penguins have won the hearts of residents at a care home in Erith.

To mark World Penguin Day on Thursday, April 25, Nicola Martin, manager at Heathfield Court Care Home, organised for two Humboldt penguins to visit the home and was amazed at the residents’ response and how well they engaged with the birds.

“The home was buzzing with excitement before, during and after the visit,” said Nicola.

“Many of the residents enjoyed spending time with Pringle and Widget, holding them on their knee or stroking them.

“The visit really stimulated the residents, there was lots of conversation, with some sharing memories of the first time they saw a penguin, and others talking about taking their children to see them at the zoo.”

Heathfield Court is a purpose-built, luxury care home, located Colyers Lane in Erith, it provides residential, nursing and specialist dementia care.

The penguins from Heythrop Zoological Gardens in Oxfordshire were accompanied by zoo keeper Barbara Howes. Pringle and Widget enjoyed exploring the care home, even visiting some of the less mobile residents in their rooms.

For one resident, Rose Nesbitt, aged 89, who has impaired vision, the sensation of touching the medium-sized penguins was unexpected.

“I thought it would feel soft and feathery, but it was very smooth and silky,” said Rose. “It was a marvellous experience.”

Resident Pam Newbury, aged 88, said she was “so excited she could hardly sleep” ahead of the visit, and was one of the first to volunteer to have a penguin sit on her knee.

“They are just wonderful creatures and so beautiful,” said Pam, who lives in the care home’s specialist dementia suite.

“To have the opportunity to get up close to these magnificent birds was a dream. It was magical to see them waddling along the corridors.”

Two of Heathfield Court’s other residents – adopted dogs Trixie and Lulu – were kept separate from the penguins during the visit.

Nikita Waterman, lifestyle coordinator at the care home, added: “The dogs kept coming up to the window to check out the new visitors, Lulu in particular was keen to see who was getting all of her cuddles and strokes!

“The penguins were very curious about the dogs too and kept waddling over to the window to see them.”

Heathfield Court is rated ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and was a Regional Finalist for the Putting People First Award in the Great British Care Awards 2023.