The Owensboro-Daviess County Seniors Community Center has received funding to provide pet assistance to seniors in need.
The funding comes from a grant provided by Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities to provide the assistance, which could include pet food, supplies and veterinary services, among other possible needs, for the seniors involved. in the Meals on Wheels program.
Executive director Becky Barnhart said the senior center was still trying to determine the needs of elderly clients, but there was evidence that many did not have enough funds on a regular basis to provide food.
“Nationally, Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities have conducted studies on how seniors don’t eat and give up some of their food to feed their pet if they don’t have the money to buy the right food,” she said. “This program will help supplement that, as well as provide leashes or collars or different supplies they might need to stay healthy.”
However, she said pets provided a necessary social outlet for many seniors who regularly experienced isolation and loneliness.
“I’ve said it so many times before,” she said. “We’ve seen over the past two years during COVID, just the impact of loneliness and social isolation, especially on older people, and so we have confidence and we can know, without having hard data, that older people who have pets at home, who might live alone, are not as alone with that pet.
Offering this service, she said, helps keep seniors independent and engaged.
And the need, she says, is there locally.
Abby Greene, senior center intern, worked to research how many seniors in the Meals on Wheels program need and what those needs are, as well as veterinary services premises and stores selling pet food. and supplies to tell them about the program and generate interest and build potential partnerships to help provide services and supplies to seniors in need.
Greene said pet assistance was never something she would consider a need for seniors, but as she called and spoke with many senior customers with pets and learned to understand their experiences, it “opened her eyes”.
“A few people said they gave up their meals for their pets and their pets were really the only living thing they socialized with,” she said. “I spoke to a lady today, and she said she talks to her pet daily, and that’s what keeps her going, that’s what keeps her company.”
Barnhart said there is still work to be done to get the program up and running.
The senior center, she said, works alongside another center in Georgia, which has also developed a similar program, to help provide counseling.
Once everything is up and running, she believes it will be an essential service for seniors to keep them and their pets healthy.
“I think it’s something the community will also support,” she said. “Providing this service that allows them to keep the animal with them, to keep it healthy and to help it stay at home, that is our ultimate goal, it is to keep the elderly independent, engaged and involved.”
Anyone interested in volunteering to help distribute supplies or make a contribution can contact the senior center at 270-687-4640.