Visiting pet programs are known to have a positive impact on residents of assisted-living facilities. But even better? For this week’s Innovation Bank, we’re taking a look at Senior Saviors. In this flagship program of The Animal Protective Association (APA) Adoption Center in St. Louis, MO, pairs of kittens and puppies are fostered by residents of senior centers. Read the following high-level insights and listen to the complete recording (it’s less than 30 minutes) anytime.
Since the Senior Saviors program was started by The APA in 2017, 82 animals have been fostered at assisted-living facilities in the area. “It’s not a huge percentage of our fosters,” says Kim Brown, VP & Director of Operations, “but those animals reached hundreds of seniors and their families.” Here’s some more on the program and its benefits and challenges.
How It Works In a Nutshell
Animals are fostered out in pairs for three weeks at at time. One staff person at the facility is designated as the point of contact, and this person can reach out to the APA’s foster coordinator at any time with questions or concerns. Depending on the facility, the animals may have a separate space where they stay 24/7, or a staff person may take them home at at the end of the day. Residents may be able to access the room where the animals are anytime, or the facility may set specific times for visiting and foster care duties.
Benefits of Senior Saviors foster program
Brown reports the following impact of the program on the senior residents:
- Increased physical activity (from simply petting the animals to visiting with them in outside courtyards)
- Alleviation of depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Providing a sense of purpose
- Reducing isolation
- Animals are great conversation starters, particularly for those residents who may be otherwise hard to engage
1.) “We didn’t anticipate what the program would do for family members,” shares Brown. “Visiting a senior facility can be sad or even, for younger children, boring. Adding puppies and kittens changes the whole dynamic. The families have been so grateful.”
2.) Most of the pets are adopted by staff and visitors by the time the 3-week foster period is up!
You are probably familiar with the common concerns surrounding seniors and pets–puppy and kitten teeth and nails injuring frail elders’ thin skin, allergies, and animals with parvo and other health concerns. Brown says so far none of these have been a problem. The biggest challenge for staff at the facilities, however, has been clean-up. “It’s important to make sure staff really love puppies and kittens and are willing to clean up after them. They’re already cleaning up and caring for a lot of people, so adding in animals is a big ask.”
For additional logistics and feel-good stories about the program (which, by the way, has remained in operation during the pandemic), visit the Innovation Bank and register for the recording.