The residents of Legacy Nursing and Rehabilitation in Port Allen now have new roommates – a dozen birds and another on the way.

The home’s social service director, Terry Calvert, B.S., says the birds are therapeutic for the residents.

“The animals provide emotional support for them,” she said. “They offer an activity that is not going to tire the out but will refresh them instead.”

The bird aviary has its beginnings with a state innovated quality grant proposal, Calvert said.

“Anybody could sign up for it but it had to deal with social change or anything that would improve the lifestyle of the residents,” she said. A former resident in Michigan where she also worked at an assisted living facility, Calvert said they had a bird aviary there.

“I remembered always loving the bird aviary,” she said. She had been assisted by a company in South Dakota, Living Designs, with the aviary there. “So when the state awarded us the grant, I went ahead and contacted the same company.”

“They cater to nursing homes and facilities like ours,” Calvert said. “They’re the only company in the country that provides these aviaries.”

“They helped me pick out the birds,” she continued, breeds that were selected according to the type of facility and its residents. Many of the residents at Legacy have behavioral problems or some form of dementia.

A representative from Living Designs comes to the Port Allen facility every three months and picks up all of the new birds that have hatched since their last visit, “and then they’ll replace them with some others birds that they think might be suitable for us.”

The dozen adult birds at Legacy are diamond doves, finches and warblers, Calvert said. “Those varieties of birds is what Living Designs deemed were appropriate for people who have mental disabilities and behavior issues.”

While the residents can’t actually reach into the aviary and handle the birds – only Calvert has that authority – they apparently find simply watching them flutter around the aviary to be calming, a fact made evident by the dozen or so residents who were in the lobby enjoying the aviary that day.

The aviary is unique to the area, said the director of the assisted living facility.

“Ours is the only one in south Louisiana, no other place has anything like it, maybe in all of Louisiana,” said Administrator Meagan Landry, who said Living Designs has confirmed that fact.