Five of the elderly residents of the dementia unit at the retirement home Ekhaga in Kungälv, north of Gothenburg, got a treat last week: a visit to a riding school with special focus on people with disabilities.
“Animals have an ability to make people with dementia-related illnesses happy and get them to open up even if they in other situations live in their own world,” Weronica Hålsjö Möller, who is the head of the unit, told The Local on Thursday.
While residents and staff alike all enjoyed the visit, for Bertil Jansson, 96, it was a very special moment.
Jansson used to work with Ardennes horses in his youth, and had probably never expected to be back in the saddle again. But when the group walked inside the stables, something happened.
“The smells, everything, moved Bertil. When he spotted the big horse, he immediately said 'it's an Ardennes, it's an Ardennes', and started to cry,” Katrin Berntsson, who works at the care home and was the one who came up with the idea of a day out at the riding school, told regional tabloid GT.
Bertil Jansson on the Ardennes horse Julle. Photo: Weronica Hålsjö Möller
But it got even better. Jansson was helped into the saddle by Berntsson and her colleagues, as well as staff at the riding school, Rödby Lunnagård, and was able to ride around the stables courtyard.
“There were tears of joy both among the residents and those of us who were there,” Weronica Hålsjö Möller, who is the head of Ekhaga's dementia unit, told The Local.
“It was greatly appreciated, and that our Bertil wanted to ride was truly spontaneous and without any hesitation on his part despite his 96 years,” she added. “It was a great day for residents and staff!”