Pets for The Elderly is Helping Seniors Be Less Lonely

This nonprofit is helping seniors pay for pet adoption and care.

(Budimir Jevtic / Shutterstock.com)

There is nothing like sharing your home with a furry family member. With social activities curtailed due to social distancing and lockdowns, people need the companionship and love that dogs and cats offer. Pets for the Elderly (PFE), a nonprofit organization is making that happen for seniors across the US.

PFE was founded in 1992 in Cleveland, Ohio and has already placed 78,000 companion animals with older adopters. Today, the organization is working with animal shelters in 34 states. PFE has always paid part of the adoption fees of participating shelters for seniors age 60 and over.

Now, PFE, recognizing that loneliness is a big side effect of the coronavirus pandemic, is offering shelters a new option that will help cover the costs of routine veterinary care, pet food, and supplies according to TODAY.

Susan Kurowski, 69, executive director of Pets for the Elderly, told TODAY that she hopes more shelters will apply for grants to help keep pets in the homes of the seniors who love them. The goal is to have at least one participating shelter in all 50 states by the time the expanded program officially launches on January 1, 2021.

“Now, especially with COVID, bridging this whole isolation gap with companionship is going to show — when we look back — as being key to so many people’s mental wellness,” she told TODAY. “And you don’t have to live alone to feel isolated.”

Living with pets comes with great health benefits, including stress reduction. That’s because bonding with pets – or even just petting them – triggers higher levels of oxytocin; the stress reducing hormone. Owning dogs and cats has also been associated with lower blood pressure. But even more important for dog owning seniors is the fact that walking a dog will get them out and exercising more even during lockdowns.

“Seniors take better care of themselves because somebody’s counting on them,” Kurowski said. “They maintain a routine. They take their vitamins and their prescriptions on time because there’s someone relying on them, and that is so important.”

She loves hearing about adoption success stories. One man came to volunteer at a pet shelter and ended up adopting a fluffy dog. “When he walked into the common area after the adoption with this dog, everybody’s oohing and aahing and he just brightened up and said, ‘I’m going to be a chick magnet,’” she said. “I just hope we can keep on and help more and more of these animals and seniors.”

Now when many shelters cannot run adoption days due to the pandemic or have fewer volunteers, finding homes for shelter animals is vitally important. Especially since many shelters have seen an increase in pets being surrendered because their owners are sick or can no longer afford to keep them.

Matching pets with seniors are a win/win solution that will become much easier when there are grants that will help defray the costs. So, if you are retired and living alone, add some joy to your life by adopting a fur baby.

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