There’s an urgent need to support pet ownership for older Australians who choose to live independently, says a new survey.
The poll – conducted by national animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia – shows 40 per cent of people receiving a government-funded Home Care Package live with a pet.
Yet, according to CANA’s Status of pets in aged care survey – which is based on the responses of 1,130 participants, including older adults, aged care staff and the broader public – only 9 per cent receive support to help care for their companion animal – dog walking, for example, or transport for pets who need a vet.
“The Commonwealth Home Support Program and Home Care Packages can be extended to determine and secure the necessary assistance for a person to live independently with their pet by ensuring services are offered to support pet health and wellbeing,” said Ms Ennis.
“Increasing pet-friendly in-home aged care support will also help prevent animals being euthanised or surrendered to shelters and maximise the physical and emotional health of animal-loving older people.”
It’s long been proven that owning a pet provides companionship, reduces stress and encourages social interaction. This is particularly true for older adults who face isolation and loneliness, such as those who live home alone.
“While we’ve always recognised the benefits of owning a pet, our survey shows the Australian government and aged care providers have been slow to understand the enduring value of the human-animal bond for older people,” said Ms Ennis.
There needs to be more information disseminated about the benefits of pet ownership she said. “Education and knowledge about the benefits of pet ownership and accommodating pets are the key factors to allaying fears and opening up opportunities.”
As well as the benefits for older people, aged care providers open to pets could do well financially added Ms Ennis. “The inclusion of pets is a great business model as aged care facilities and home care companies that include pets are in greater need and their clients and communities are happier and healthier.”
CANA’s Pet Friendly Aged Care hub has free resources for aged care providers, support agencies and organisations to manage and care for pets in aged care settings.
“As our population ages, solutions to maintaining a high-quality of life include finding ways to help ageing people retain their pets,” said Ms Ennis.