Last week’s focus was children’s interaction with animals and the resulting “brighter tomorrow” that was possible because of those relationships. Children, however, are not the only ones within our community who can benefit from the companionship of a pet. Many of our senior citizens can, as well. This week I am extremely delighted to talk about a recent program instituted, through the collaboration of P.E.T.S. and the Tehama County Animal Care Center, that will not only help the senior animals at the Center, but hopefully also senior members of our fine community.
This new “A Senior for A Senior” adoption program is about seniors discovering the joys of having a companion animal in their lives. The program is specifically designed to help senior citizens who are on a fixed income and are capable of caring for a pet, but are unable to afford the full adoption fees of a dog or cat at the Animal Care Center.
Senior pets end up in shelters for a myriad of reasons. Those reasons are often the same as for any other animal, such as neglect, abandonment, or simply because their owners no longer want the animal. Unfortunately, for some, their previous owners may have passed away without providing instruction regarding what happens to their beloved pet. Others may have moved to assisted living or an area where they are no longer able to provide proper care for their pet. Family members may not be available, may also not be able to care for the animal, or simply may not want to. Whatever the reason, the health of older animals is at higher risk in a shelter environment. They usually do not adapt well and frequently will decline rapidly. In addition, older animals are also often perceived by the public as being less desirable and therefore less adoptable then their younger counter-parts. Thus, it is more difficult to find adopters and get seniors out of the shelter environment as quickly as those involved would wish. These senior pets, like our senior citizens, deserve to spend the rest of their lives, no matter how long it may be, in the company of someone who cares.
Senior citizens who own pets are less likely to be depressed, are better able to tolerate social isolation and are more active than those who do not own pets, as shown by a study of adults aged 65 and older in the March, 1999 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It states, "...the care-taking roll involved in pet ownership may provide older people with a sense of purpose and responsibility, and encourage them to be less apathetic and more active in day-to-day activities...elderly people who lacked strong social support (for example, friends and family) remained relatively healthy during life-crises compared with non-pet-owners placed in similar situations.”
Pets provide friendship for lonely individuals. Seniors may miss the companionship a spouse or close friends who may have died, or of family, if they are distant or uninvolved. The presence of a pet provides company and assists seniors to recognize that they are not alone.
Pets rely on us for multiple needs. Every responsible pet guardian is also aware that fulfilling those needs keeps us quite active. Again, multiple studies have shown that seniors benefit from the increased responsibility, activity, and focus associated with taking care of a pet.
In another study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, it was determined that seniors with pets have 21% fewer physician visits. Additionally, documented sources convey that opening our homes to pets can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus reducing risk for heart disease and stroke.
Overall, the impact of the elderly having a pet can be tremendously positive. Pets can provide us with a sense of responsibility, increased alertness and sense of security, along with unending love and affection. Therefore, they can assist in alleviating some of the overwhelming issues senior citizens might face.
If interested in learning more regarding the health benefits of animals for seniors, the following site has multiple resources for review (http://www.petpartners.org/page.aspx?pid=334 ). In addition, if interested in learning more about the “A Senior for A Senior” adoption program at the Tehama County Animal Care Center, or arranging a visit with a wonderful senior animal, please call 530-527-3439. The Center is located at 1830 Walnut St., Red Bluff, CA.