Bridging the Gap Between the Elderly/Disabled and Shelter Animals

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A New Jersey volunteer organization is giving low-income seniors an opportunity to share their life and love with a pet.

The Neighbor to Neighbor Network is a non-profit organization that connects volunteers with Bloomfield, New Jersey residents in need of support not available through traditional programs. Special emphasis is placed on assisting homebound senior citizens and low-income individuals and families. Last month the organization hosted its first “Meet the Animals” event at the Felicity Towers housing for seniors. It was part of NTNN’s new Pets for Seniors program, which partners with the Bloomfield Animal Shelter to give elderly and disabled Bloomfield residents the opportunity to foster or adopt a cat or dog. About 25 residents attended the event and three cats were adopted.

Pets for Seniors is targeted at  individuals who wish to have a pet but don’t have the financial means to care for one. The program’s objective is to “bridge the gap between NTNN’s elderly/disabled clients and the animal shelter.” NTNN delivers food and cat litter to all participants and covers the cost of medical expenses for each animal. Shelter volunteers will also trim the animals’ nails once a month and will even pet-sit if the senior is away from home for an extended number of days.

The idea for Pets for Seniors was born after one of NTNN’s elderly clients lost her son. “During her bereavement counseling, the client mentioned that her son loved cats and how the house was so lonely without him,” said shelter volunteer coordinator, Stephanie De Santi. She couldn’t afford to adopt a pet on her own so Paula Peikes, NTNN Director, contacted the shelter.

Peikes found a match for the client in the way of an older cat who was abused by her previous owner.  “The shelter was having trouble finding the cat a home because it needed a quiet and calm environment,” De Santi said. Peikes and the shelter worked together so the client could adopt the cat. “Both the cat and the elderly woman are doing well. The cat now has a stable, caring home and the elderly woman found a loving companion,” De Santi said.

Shelter volunteers carefully choose the pets who would be the best match for the seniors, particularly focusing on the older, more calm cats and dogs. Seniors benefit from the program in many ways, including a sometimes renewed sense of purpose. “Adopting a pet provides the senior or disabled individual with a companion,” De Santi said. “Frequently, as people get older, they have to rely on others for help.  Having a pet is a nice way for someone who is always a care-receiver to be the caregiver.”

This program also benefits the animals. “It gives the older animals a chance to be adopted and for a one on one relationship with a caring individual,” De Santi said.

Pets for Seniors is an opportunity for those who wanted to adopt but may have previously questioned whether they had the means. “Pets for Seniors is an opportunity to help an animal.  The program allows clients to adopt an animal with minimal risk.  NTNN covers the costs of adoption and care,” De Santi said. “All in all, it’s a great way to give an animal a loving home.”

Anyone who’d like to support the Pets for Seniors program may contact NTNN to make a donation.

3 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap Between the Elderly/Disabled and Shelter Animals”

  1. this is an absolutely excellent idea !! my rescue, Absolutely Purrfect and many other rescues offer a ‘seniors for senior’ type program in which the fee is reduced or sometimes waived completely – sometimes it just comes down to getting these cats into a home 🙂 our group also helps with basic medical — vet visits and shots – it’s a definite win-win situation …. another great story Angie 🙂

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