For many seniors, pets are their only consistent companion
Copper Country Senior Meals (CCSM) has been awarded a $15,000 grant to launch a preliminary pet program following a competitive Discovery Grant Program offered through Meals on Wheels America in collaboration with PetSmart Charities.
“I want to thank CCSM employees McKenzie Hart and Emily Rogers for taking the initiative to go after this grant,” CCSM Director Kathleen Harter said. “They know how much of a need there is in our community to support the elders who often have their pets as their only consistent companion.”
The goals of the Discovery Grant Program are to support Members in:
- Understanding client needs and existing assets through community assessments and asset mapping;
- The adoption and expansion of new services, including pet assistance services, and to ultimately serve more seniors and pets; and,
- Successful bi-directional learning via a peer-to-peer cohort and mentorship opportunity.
In total, PetSmart Charities awarded $500,000 to Meals on Wheels America to span pet assistance services gaps.
“Studies show that interacting with animals decreases cortisol (a stress-related hormone) levels and lowers blood pressure,” Hart said. “Researchers have also found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, boost one’s mood and increase physical activity. Senior Meals is dedicated to helping seniors live independent lives and this may mean supporting seniors and their constant companions.”
Over the next year, Copper Country Senior Meals will work with the 270 seniors that are currently served to identify critical pet needs. For instance, do seniors need help in procuring pet food, providing daily walks for their pets during icy and snowy conditions, or obtaining pet grooming and veterinarian services?
“We’re very excited about this grant opportunity,” Rogers said. “The awareness we will gain in better understanding our senior clients and the obstacles they may face regarding their pets could make a huge difference for these seniors.”
According to a peer reviewed article titled, ‘Elderly people in many respects benefit from interaction with dogs,’ it was stated that “All too frequently the companionship of a pet is underestimated or belittled, even though pets are often intimate companions for many elderly people. They help them fight off loneliness and solitude and continue their activity. To many elderly people, their animal friend means joy and quality of life (Otterstedt and Rosenberger 2009).”
“We look forward to learning more and assisting our seniors in this new aspect,” Harter said. “Stay tuned this next year as we roll out our findings and potentially expand our services.”