Dogs bring many benefits to senior citizens. They provide companionship and decrease feelings of loneliness. They increase social interaction. And people with dogs are more active.
However, some seniors can face serious challenges in caring for their dogs. They may encounter health issues that affect their ability to take their dog for a walk. Financially they may find it difficult to pay for their dog’s needs. Or they may not be able to drive making visits to the vet or the groomer difficult.
Still, the benefits of having a dog outweigh the challenges, so finding ways to support seniors with their dogs is very important.
Helping seniors take care of their dogs
ELDERDOG is a Canadian registered charitable organization aimed at helping senior citizens keep their own dogs in their own homes by providing extra support and care that’s needed. Visit their website here.
Sue Wilson leads the ELDERDOG chapter—or pawd—in Guelph, Ontario. She explains, “I was thinking one day about how my dog needed to go out, and I thought, “What’s this going to be like when I’m older?” That got me thinking about older people in my community and how I could help them with their dogs. A few weeks later, I found out about ELDERDOG.”
ELDERDOG was started by Ardra Cole, a professor of education at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. Cole’s research into caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease led to the establishment of ELDERDOG Canada.
Volunteers like Sue assist seniors with exercising their dogs, delivering pet food, grooming, transportation to and from the vet or groomer and temporary care during hospitalization.
ELDERDOG’s services are also available in emergencies, which helps to alleviate stress and worry for seniors and their families.
Sue describes one client, who does not have family to help her and also has serious health challenges. “She has not allowed herself to be admitted to hospital because she has no one to take care of her dog. Now that she is connected with ELDERDOG, she has us as backup. The worry of who would take care of her dog was a big psychological burden.”
All of ELDERDOG’s services are provided by volunteers and are free to seniors. (Information on volunteering is available on their website.)
What volunteers do
Volunteers will also assist in fostering or adopting dogs. In the situation that a senior has to give up his or her dog, ELDERDOG helps with rehoming.
The organization works closely with humane societies and other volunteer organizations in the areas it serves. Last year, ELDERDOG rehomed more than 300 older dogs across Canada. Many of these dogs were rehomed from one senior citizen to another, through the ELDERDOG village of volunteers and helpers.
While many communities have organizations focused on helping older people adopt dogs, ELDERDOG focuses also on ongoing support for helping seniors take care of their dogs. Sue encourages seniors to seek out organizations in their local areas.
She also encourages people to reach out to elderly neighbours and relatives and offer to assist with their dogs. “The best thing to do is ask if you can help. It’s helpful to be specific about what you’re offering. Rather than asking ‘Do you need any help?’ ask ‘Can I take your dog for a walk?’ Especially as we head into winter, this assistance may be very appreciated.”
Sue receives numerous inquiries every week from seniors, their families and even care facilities seeking assistance for seniors and their dogs. The need is great, but so are the benefits for seniors, dogs and the volunteers who help them.
Do you have a group like ELDERDOG helping seniors take care of their dogs in your area?
Have you ever faced a challenge in caring for your dog?
Do you help any elderly friends or family with their dogs?
Let us know in the comments!
To learn more about ELDERDOG, check out the website or these articles.
Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her family live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada. Follow Julia on Instagram here.