PHOTOS: Benito the therapy llama brought joy and smiles to residents at Rose Schnitzer Manor and Harold Schnitzer Center for Living on his first visit to Cedar Sinai Park's senior campus since the pandemic began.
BY DEBORAH MOON
They’re back! “They” being animals, smiles and Jennifer Felberg, all of which returned to Cedar Sinai Park this fall.
The pandemic has seriously limited both human and animal visitors to senior living campuses for nearly 18 months. As much as residents have missed seeing family and friends, the loss of animal visits also has been felt keenly.
“Animals play a huge role in curbing depression and loneliness – especially in a skilled nursing and assisted-living setting,” says Jennifer, who returned to CSP in early September to serve as Director of Community Life.
When Jennifer previously worked at CSP, she oversaw a “very active animal therapy program that helped people.” She recalls one woman in hospice who was greatly calmed when a therapy cat curled up with her for her final two hours.
“I can’t imagine not having had that,” Jennifer says.
Jennifer worked at CSP for eight years before leaving four years ago to work with her sister at Applied Curiosity Lab, “where we had a podcast and performed corporate trainings on how to use curiosity as a strategic tool for business.” She then sold tile and stone for two years before CSP CEO Kimberly Fuson asked her if she wanted to “come back home.”
“Of course I did, because I love the community here,” Jennifer says.
Jennifer wasted no time getting animals back on campus. Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas used to bring a llama to visit the seniors about every three months. During Sukkot, Benito the Llama came to the campus to bring smiles to many seniors.
Jennifer hopes to have a llama or alpaca on campus about every three months.
“We are excited to bring back therapy dogs, cats, bunnies, etc., like we did BC (before COVID),” says Jennifer. “We had a yearly visit from the Portland Traveling Zoo that would even bring a snake.”
She also hopes to bring back “our dog birthday parties with music – think 'Who Let the Dogs Out' and 'I Wanna Be Your Salty Dog' – and cake."
With her return to CSP, Jennifer’s primary focus is to ensure staff, volunteers, residents and the community understand CSP’s culture as a community with Jewish values where people love and support each other.
For more information on the senior living campus, visit cedarsinaipark.org.