Princess the Pony cheers up seniors

Posted at 10:58 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 11:58:56-04

This story is from our sister station, NEWS 5 in Cleveland, Ohio.

FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio — Princess the Pony, decked out in tutu and unicorn horn, cheers up seniors at a nursing home at Fairview Park amid coronavirus pandemic.

Can we all agree that ponies make pretty much anyone smile?

Kids, seniors. Me, you.

Now dress up that pony in a tutu, add a unicorn horn, painted pink hooves and call her princess — and you can’t help but grin.

That’s all Amy Zauner of Equine Differences wants when she takes Princess the Pony to senior centers and nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

A smile through the window and a laugh through the glass makes all the difference to the residents.

“She window visited all the residents, and it made them very happy,” Amy said. “Actually some of the residents tried to reach out the window to pet the pony, we had one lady cry because she was so excited.”

At O’Neill Healthcare in Fairview Park, activities director Margaret Anderson says Princess lifted spirits.

“Oh tremendous. More so than I would ever think,” Anderson said.

And it’s not just Amy and Princess. Anderson said it has all been a community effort to bring smiles to faces inside the windows.

Neighbors walking dogs by purposely every day. A bird feeder project to bring feathered friends close by.Musicians playing instruments right outside the windows.

Anderson said since they can't have group gatherings like Bingo and group dinners like they're used to, they are trying to turn to virtual and one-on-one activities with residents.

And Equine Differences also started a coloring challenge — kids who come to the horse learning facility swapping their creations with seniors at O’Neill.

“So we can take this to the residents room and show them the artwork and it’s nice because they know somebody out there is thinking of us, they love us,” Anderson said.

And for Amy, all of it hits home.

“This is very personal for me because my sister is in the nursing home that we went to visit,” she said.

She said isolation is taking a toll on her sister’s mental health, like it is for so many of us.

“I’ve seen her become very depressed, I’ve seen her become very lonely,” Amy said.

But on this day, these smiles through the windows mean the world.

And they come with the promise that Princess the Pony will be back.

“We promised once we’re off of this quarantine we’re actually going to bring princess where they can pet her and enjoy her,” Amy said.