Calgary Seniors\' Resource Society (Calgary Seniors) is an agency devoted to keeping seniors living safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible. We are able to assist with this through several of our volunteer based programs, such as weekly companionship, daily phone calls, assistance with grocery shopping & errands, and drives to medical appointments.
Recently, Calgary Seniors Volunteer Services Team has identified a significant number of senior clients in need of assistance with their pet. These seniors need support in appropriately caring for their pet. There is a strong bond between a senior and their pet. They are very attached to their furry family members and their animals give them a reason for being (getting up in the morning, getting outside, companionship, love etc.). The senior pet relationship is very valuable, but the animals can become a burden and even a safety/health risk if not taken care of properly (feces in home, aggressive behaviour, unplanned reproduction etc.).
Having identified this missing link between pet ownership and vulnerable seniors’ quality of life, we are in the beginning stages of developing a program called Pet Assist that would see volunteers providing pet support for low income, and isolated seniors. This would include weight management, exercise, monitoring medication and other treatment, providing support during and after vet visits, helping with re-homing when needed and helping balance animal well-being and senior well-being.
The goal of the Pet Assist program is to have both the animal and the senior be healthy and happy as long as possible. Pets provide isolated seniors with companionship, motivation to keep going, and help encourage physical activity. However, when pets are neglected, the living environment can become unsafe for both the animal and the senior.
Who Will it Benefit?
Here at Calgary Seniors, we have over 900 dedicated volunteers who support our over 1,200 clients. The seniors we work with are some of our communities’ most vulnerable. They are low income, have mobility issues, and other health issues, and many have no family or support systems in place. They are isolated, often lonely and just need a little help.
The connection between quality of life and pet ownership for these at-risk seniors is often under acknowledged. Pets are the lifeline, the connection to the outside world, whether it be through connection to their physical community by taking their pet for a walk in the neighborhood, or simply the companionship the animals offer.
The senior, the pet and the volunteer who assists will benefit!