Words by Smiley Team
Everyone has dealt with loneliness at one point or another in their lives. A fact of life is that at one point or another, we’re going to feel alone. In younger years that’s not much of an issue. But as we get older and our lives unfold, people may grow distant and the loneliness more severe.
This is something that affects older adults exponentially in the US. According to the CDC, “many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk,” and some of those risks include premature death from all causes, 50% percent increased risk of dementia, as well as higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
One organization, Pets for the Elderly, is putting in work to help with the issue at hand. “We exist because our founder believed in the importance of animal companionship for older adults,” Pets for the Elderly, executive director Susan Kurowski tells Smiley News.
“Since beginning the organization in 1992, more and more evidence has become available as to the importance of this companionship, as well as the importance of reducing the feelings of isolation and loneliness in the elder population.”
The organization also wanted to serve as a vehicle to help animals out of shelters, helping cover many of the costs involved with adopting an animal and making the process much more accessible.
“As an animal lover, (our founder) was disturbed by the number of homeless animals languishing in shelters," says Susan. "He believed providing an incentive for older folks to adopt, providing a discount, would be helpful."
Today, the organization does much of the same work that its founder, Avvy Katz, had in mind, and has helped place over 100,000 shelter animals with seniors looking to adopt, in 53 shelters in 31 states.
“Homeless animals find forever homes. Seniors find companionship,” Susan says. “Animals getting forever homes, in a part of the population that is usually more settled and stable not only gets them out of shelters, it makes room for the next animal.”
In 2020 they’ve expanded their support, now even providing funding for shelter programs that cover veterinary services, retention services, food shortage support, and other services for animal adopters aged 60 and over.
DONATE: Pets for the Elderly accepts donations to continue funding their work.
SUPPORT: There are other ways to address isolation and loneliness in older adults, like joining partnership or companion programs to spend time with people who don’t really have anyone else. Also, make sure you keep in touch with your older family members.