July 21, 2024
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Daughters of Miriam Welcomes Turtle Back Zoo Visitors

(Courtesy of Daughters of Miriam) Two and four-legged ambassadors from the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo Outreach Program recently visited nursing home residents of the Memory Care Unit at Daughters of Miriam Center/The Gallen Institute in Clifton. Seniors touched, held and learned about their animal visitors who calmly strutted, padded and slithered among their new friends.

For the health and safety of people as well as wild animals, New Jersey has restrictions on touching non-domesticated animals. In order to provide a tactile experience, the Turtle Back Zoo Outreach Program brings both domesticated animals that people can hold, as well as a touchable biofact for each wild animal.

Ellen Hernandez was visiting her cousin at Daughters of Miriam Center when the Turtle Back Zoo ambassadors arrived. She enthusiastically stated, “What a great program! Everyone was so interested in seeing the animals, it really perked the residents up. You could see that even the people who couldn’t speak were reacting to the animals; it was wonderful!”

The Turtle Back Zoo Outreach Program at Daughters of Miriam Center was funded thanks to the generosity of Jackie and Ronald Gwinn, who wanted to provide residents in the Memory Care Unit with pet and animal therapy, interaction and education. The faces of the nursing home residents came alive as they actively engaged in petting the animals and they reacted with smiles and sounds of happiness as the animals came near. One usually quiet resident happily told staff that he had chickens when he was growing up, the memory apparently prompted by Petey the rooster coming near.

Activities Director Nora added, “There is a healing power to animals. Interacting with friendly pets can help many physical and mental issues, including reducing blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. In addition, touching or petting an animal can release endorphins that produce a calming effect.”

Activities at Daughters of Miriam Center focus on enriching the day-to-day lives of seniors through animal and pet therapy, performing arts, intergenerational programs with visiting students, daily movement exercises, cooking demonstrations and other engaging programs that both stimulate and entertain nursing home residents.

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