Dogs and cats are conversations waiting to happen - they can provide opportunities to get to know people you might otherwise have little in common with. The stronger the connections and relationships are between community members the safer and healthier the community is overall.
In the US, 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 live alone. Over 25% of Cape Cod's year round population is over the age of 65. Transportation challenges, health issues, and lack of family living locally are contributing factors to growing social isolation of seniors in our community.
Social Isolation itself has negative impacts on a persons health including increased risk of heart attack or stroke, acceleration of cognitive decline, and increased risk of and severity of mental health and substance use disorders. Loneliness is now called a 'silent killer' with more drastic health effects than smoking, obesity or high blood pressure.
Isolation and loneliness is not just an issue that impacts people over the age of 65. Even way back in 2004, 1 in 4 (25%) Americans claimed they had no one to share a personal problem with. Experts agree that loneliness, isolation and social alienation are on the rise for people of all ages.
The good news is that we can do something about it! Increasing social connections and reducing isolation is good for people of all ages. Add animals to the mix and they help to:
Often beloved pets are surrendered to local animal shelters because an owner may need help caring for them but lack support or there is no plan for what will happen to a pet if the owner faces an unexpected circumstance such as a housing crisis, hospitalization or even a terminal illness.
Creating a plan in advance, developing social connections, and being part of a network of committed neighbors can allow for pets to be cared for temporarily or permanently and avoid being surrendered to local shelters.