Animals bring joy to care home residents in France

Older, autistic and disabled people are benefiting from cuddling dogs, rabbits and other animals.

For the past 10 years, residents in care homes, as well as children, and autistic and disabled people, have been offered animal ‘mediation’ by an association called AnimalCâlin.

It was founded by Dominique Portal, a former care home worker who found the growing number of residents made it hard to find pastimes that could include everyone.

When her then-employer turned down her suggestion of using animals to help, she launched the non-profit firm.

AnimalCâlin, based in Albi in the Tarn, also operates in and around Toulouse.

“The benefits are immediately visible,” said Mrs Portal, 65.

“As soon as you arrive at an old people’s home with an animal, everyone wakes up. You get the impression that they have come back to life.

“Depending on their physical and psychological abilities, they can have contact with an animal, talk to it, stroke it or touch it, and do little physical and motor activities,” she said.

The advantages of animal mediation include everything from easing loneliness to refining motor skills and helping teenagers who have difficulty with relationships.

AnimalCâlin also supports people who are dealing with cognitive problems or significant memory loss, sometimes helping them to remember their own pets from years ago.

“I am convinced that our animals are often a bridge to communication,” Ms Portal said.

“They don’t pass judgement, they don’t care how we look, and that changes everything.”