Newcastle’s Ashton Court Care Home had some unusual guests when Discovery Zoo brought some creepy crawlies and creatures to visit.

The home played host to snakes, tarantulas, rats and even a large millipede! Residents learned all about the creatures from Discovery Zoo’s Paul Fenwick before having a chance to hold the mixed menagerie. The visit was part of the home’s ever evolving activities programme.

First visit since the COVID-19 pandemic began

In fact, it’s the first time Discovery Zoo has visited the home since the start of the Covid pandemic. Previously they were regular, and valued guests, providing a great diversion for residents. Interaction between animals and people has many benefits; an automatic relaxation response, it relieves symptoms of dementia and prevents feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Resident Christine Parry

Nikki Foggin, activities coordinator at Ashton Court Care Home, said: “Our residents have really enjoyed their unusual visitors, especially the snake, tarantula and millipede. They’re not something you usually see up in Newcastle and for some of our residents it was the first time seeing them in real life.

Discovery Zoo did a great job introducing the creatures to residents and explaining how to hold them. Animal visits are always such a lift for our residents and it’s great to see them so excited.

A welcome return to activities

“Stroking and holding the animals always puts a smile on our residents faces. It sparks their memories and I hear all about their previous pets or trips to the zoo with their families.

“The millipede was something not many of us had seen before. The sensation of all those legs on your skin is really weird, but its great sensory stimulation for our residents, especially those who have dementia.

Resident John Cosgrove

“We’re always looking for activities to entertain our residents and really look forward to being able to do more now that restrictions are relaxed.”

Paul Fenwick from Discovery Zoo said: “We love visiting care homes and seeing how much joy it brings to residents. We have some unusual animals that get people really interested, as well as things like rabbits and gerbils that people may have had as pets themselves. They are great for reviving memories, although just sitting and stroking an animal can be very relaxing too.”