Many people consider their pets their family. For older adults, the bond often runs deeper. Their kitty or canine companion might stand between them and devastating loneliness.
However, it can be more challenging for this population to tend to their animal companions thanks to reduced mobility, more frequent illnesses, and living on a fixed income. They need help to keep this vital connection in their lives.
That’s why the National Lottery Community Fund recently awarded Leicester Animal Aid with £90,000 so that the charity can help care for the pets of the elderly and sick.
The Critical Role Pets Play in Older Adult Lives
Pets provide necessary stimulation and companionship to older adults. They can even help mitigate some of the physical decline that often accompanies aging. For example, people with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and fewer incidents of heart disease.
Perhaps the most critical role pets play in helping older adults is mitigating loneliness. Multiple factors increase isolation among this population, such as losing a spouse and vital members of their friendship and family circles, and chronic illness complicating their ability to attend social events in the community. Even hearing impairments can leave members of this community feeling alone as they withdraw rather than face having to ask people to repeat themselves.
Even though seniors often benefit from pets the most, they may hesitate to invite an animal companion into their lives because of the risks. They may fear getting sick or injured and losing their ability to care for their dog or cat. Furthermore, those on fixed incomes may worry about soaring inflation pricing pet necessities like food and litter out of reach.
Keeping Fur Families Together
Leicester Animal Aid provides a team of animal care assistants who pay regular visits to older adults in the program, helping them care for their pets. These visits also decrease loneliness among this vulnerable population. One recipient states that such touchpoints provide the only human interaction they have in a given day and they look forward to sharing their love for their pet with their assistant.
This charity also spares older adults the heartbreak of having to rehome their precious animals. Doing so often causes unnecessary stress, as these individuals might struggle to inspect the new home, leaving them unsure about their companion’s new living arrangements.
Tips for Combating Loneliness in Older Adults
What can you do if you love an older adult and worry about their struggles with loneliness? You can take some tips from Leicester Animal Aid and the NHS to keep those in this population active and involved in their communities:
- Attend tea time: Make a date with the older adult you love to check in once a week or every-other week for a standing tea time. You might wish to meet at a favorite shop, but keep in mind that some members of this population might be more comfortable hosting. Let them select the venue.
- Aid with daily living activities: Help the older adult in your life with chores like scooping the doggy poop or cleaning the litter box. Ensure they have plenty of healthy pet and people food stocking their pantries, perhaps including them in your weekly meal prep. Vacuum up the fur once a week.
- Help them get connected: Technology can help older adults stay connected, but only if they can use it. Spend an afternoon getting their tablet set up to do video chats or accompany them to a free computing class at a local library.
- Assist in navigating public transport: Many older adults minimize their driving or surrender their licenses. However, navigating public transportation can be tricky at first. Do a few trial runs to the grocery and pharmacist together until they feel comfortable going to the market alone.
- Suggest community activities to do together: Look for volunteer opportunities and fun events you can attend. For example, active older adults who love pets might want to get involved in efforts to build a community dog park.
Charity to Help Care for the Pets of Older People
Pets benefit older adults in multiple ways. Having a furry friend improves physical and mental health. However, older adults may struggle to care for their animal companions. That’s where charities like Leicester Animal Aid get involved. Watch the video below to see more about the impact their work is having.