Adopt A Cow Program Helps Seniors with Memory Loss

When Sandy Mayer, a volunteer at Kensington Park Nursing Home in South Kensington, Maryland, heard about Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program, she initially sent it to her friend who was an elementary teacher. However, she then began to wonder if groups other than students could enjoy the program – the residents at Kensington Park Nursing Home being the ones on her mind.

Sandy shared the program with Kyoko Marrone, the Kensington Club Coordinator and activity director, who loved the idea and thought it would be an exciting program for their residents.

The Kensington Club is a unique club with members who are in a stage between assisted living and memory care. The 12 residents in the club range from having mild and cognitive memory loss issues to early Alzheimer’s. The club allows them to receive more individual attention and to have more activities throughout the day.

When the club began participating in the Adopt a Cow program, they were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Kyoko and Sandy liked to take the residents on outings twice a week to nature centers and museums in Washington D.C. When COVID-19 hit, they had to rely on virtual programs, such as Adopt a Cow, to engage with their residents instead.

“I think it just changed the direction of how Kyoko thought about the activities,” Sandy said. “She started organizing more virtual trips, programs, and even made a vegetable garden for the residents.”

Before the residents found out they would be adopting a calf, Kyoko shared a virtual farm tour with them to build their excitement. This sparked one of the residents with memory loss to recall a piece of her childhood.

“When they saw the virtual farm tour, she started talking about how she used to grow up on a farm. So, it was really good for her to deeply connect to her memory. She gave us a great lecture about the farm and how she took care of the animals every day,” Kyoko shared.

A few weeks before the announcement of their calf arrived, Sandy and Kyoko started hinting towards the residents about what was to come. For Halloween, Sandy even came to the facility dressed in a cow costume!

For the next few weeks prior to seeing their calf, they also did weekly trivia about farmers and the dairy industry. After Sara, the calf they adopted was announced, Sandy created adoption certificates for each of the residents. One of the residents was so excited she hung her certificate on her bedroom door.

Over the next few months, Sandy and Kyoko planned fun activities to keep their residents intrigued with Sara, their calf, and the dairy industry.

Kyoko made a large chart that monitored Sara’s height and weight as she grew. She also plans to make a fun cow visor craft in the summer.

“This is the bridge between assisted living and memory care living,” Sandy added. “To get that spark in residents, it was a fun time to be with them and to get them involved in something they are so excited about.”

Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program gives students and families a firsthand look at dairy farming. For the 2020-21 school year, more than 70,000 classrooms and homes signed up for the program, impacting more than 1.5 million students across the nation.

Discover Dairy is an educational series managed by the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania in partnership with American Dairy Association North East, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Midwest Dairy, and The Dairy Alliance.

Learn more about how you can support this program.