Trees and fields as far as the eye can see: the hamlet of Brilon-Radlinghausen is a bucolic snapshot of the North Rhine-Westphalian countryside. As taken from the work of Voltaire, who placed the origins of his Candid , a large half-timbered farm sits at the entrance to the village. In this peaceful place, 20 seniors live in a former cow and pig breeding farm, converted since 2004. At the time, Andrea and Theo Müller, the owners, were struggling to get by. Seeing her mother-in-law end her life isolated and without social contact after hospitalization, Andrea had the idea of transforming her old farm into a residence for seniors.
Popular in Northern Europe, this approach is called “green care” or nature therapy. Residents can walk in the forest, stroll on marked trails and, above all, benefit from contact with animals. Studies carried out in the Netherlands have demonstrated the benefits of proximity to animals on the physical and mental health of elderly people who are responsible and physically challenged. Care is outsourced and caregivers tour the rooms every day. Around thirty of these farms have already seen the light of day in Germany, where the association Zukunft Pflegebauernhof (“Future Care Farm”) is trying to spread the project across borders.
From now on, only four donkeys, two sheep, a few poultry and dogs punctuate life on the Müller farm. As she takes the sheep out in the early morning, Jutta Ludwig, a resident, breathes. “I’m in paradise,” smiles the octogenarian, brimming with energy.