2 minute read
Older adults have been among those most impacted by the current pandemic, both physically and emotionally. In addition to advancing age, many such individuals suffer from chronic diseases that increase risk for unfavorable health outcomes should they contract COVID-19. Although self-isolation is keeping them healthy, many find quality of life to be significantly diminished. Put simply: they are desperately lonesome.
For some, Seniors for Seniors animal adoption programs could provide much-needed company. A literature review in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education summarized physiological and psychosocial improvements among older adults who had adopted pets.1 Authors Barker and Wolen cited several studies showing reduced morbidity and mortality following myocardial infarction, and well as research supporting improvements in morale, depression and loneliness.
Authors concluded that “Pets appear to buffer the impact of stress on some owners, and may be associated with other health attributes such as increased physical activity… Seniors in nursing homes and those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia appear to benefit from both pet ownership and AAA (animal-assisted activities) in the areas of mood, loneliness, social behaviors and caloric intake.”2
Programs such as the Senior Dogs Project3 and Washington State’s PAWS Seniors for Seniors4 program connect senior citizens with older shelter animals, often with reduced fees or free of charge. Older animals are less likely to be taken into shelters and are frequently euthanized because they cannot find forever homes.
A good friend in the Seattle area who is about to turn 90 adopted her cat, Lissa, through the PAWS program two years ago. Lissa had lost her owners during Hurricane Katrina. Shy at first, she and her new owner have come to depend on each other’s company as only best friends can. A widow who has been forced to self-isolate, this woman has lived through many days with no human company. Lissa’s warmth and gentle purring have kept her on center.
As we grow older, our social circles tend to diminish. Retirement, meant to be a time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, becomes a daily battle against isolation. School and business closures due to the pandemic have given the rest of us a taste of what that feels like. While we may not be able to connect physically, helping older adults find safe companionship in furry friends could make the difference between lives well lived and those not worth living.
- Barker, S. & Wolen, A. (2008). The Benefits of Human-Companion Animal Interaction: A Review. In Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. Vol. 4. No. 5. pp. 487-495.
- The Senior Dogs Project. (2020). www.srdogs.com/senior-dog-adoption-and-health.
- PAWS.org. Seniors for Seniors. (2020). www.paws.org/adopt/seniors-for-seniors.