Four-Legged Volunteers Help Ease Loneliness in Seniors

Providing dog companions helps seniors feel less lonely.

May 3, 2022
Senior man cuddling a dog outside.

(Budimir Jevtic /

The benefits of therapy dogs are well known but one UK charity is putting a new spin on it. The organization is launching a befriending service that pairs volunteer owners and dogs with local seniors to combat isolation and loneliness.

CareDogs, which operates in South London, is working to encourage social connections for elderly people who are housebound, have dementia, or have recently lost a spouse by matching them with canines, according to Southwark News.

The program is being launched after a successful pilot that involved six pairings that was run in 2021. “I was lost after my wife Jo died unexpectedly last year,” 80-year-old Colin from Bromley, one of the seniors who took part in the pilot program, told Southwark News. “Having these walks every week has helped me regain structure – and I remember my love of walking. I now walk a lot more and feel so much better for it.”

Seniors face social isolation
Intergenerational volunteering – and canine too – helps to reduce loneliness and isolation, according to the CareDogs. In fact 500,000 older people in the UK do not see or speak to anyone for a week at a time.

The befriending service provides local volunteers who will visit once a week to chat and to hopefully get out walking. This helps the seniors get much needed exercise and helps them feel part of their community. This is especially important due to the isolation and increased anxiety during the Covid19 pandemic.

“Our befriending service has already shown it can be an impactful and timely solution to the issue of social isolation and loneliness in the elderly,”  CareDogs CEO and founder, Delphine Chui told Southwark News . “But we need the public’s help to increase its reach and make a real difference in the lives of individuals living throughout South London.”

Benefits of owning a dog
CareDogs also offers senior dog adoptions. According to the organization, 130,000 dogs go into UK shelters every year and older dogs are hard to place. The aim is to place these older pets into the homes of people aged 55 and up who are experiencing social isolation.

That’s because living with a pet is extremely beneficial for older adults. Animals can help reduce stress and may actually lower blood pressure, especially dogs who encourage because they need to be walked, according to AgingCare. Living with a pet has also helped improve memory.

 “I’ve seen those with memory loss interact with an animal and regain access to memories from long ago,” psychologist Penny B. Donnenfeld told AgingCare. “Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than their physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”

Adopting a senior dog is also beneficial to the pet too. Older owners are usually retired and have more time to spend with their new family members.

For people in the US who are looking to adopt older pets, the nonprofit Pets for the Elderly works with shelters in 36 states and helps pay part of the adoption fees including veterinary exams and spay/neuter fees for seniors aged 60 and over.

The organization’s mission is to provide companion connections to seniors while saving the lives of older shelter animals. This is a win/win for all.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.