This is such a good idea it seems impossible that it hasn’t been adopted by every community in the country. Think about it: there are lots of abandoned dogs and cats languishing in humane societies unadopted because people generally want a puppy or kitten. There are also lots of older folks living alone, Why not put the two together?
That’s what Barbara Smith of Palm City on the east coast of Florida thought when she saw older animals spending months at the local humane society.
“…I would say, ‘this is bad,’" Smith told tcpalm.com. "There have to be people who would love to have a cat.”
So Smith, with her friend Liz Villasurda, created Save Our Seniors:
“The goal of the program is to find homes for senior animals – dogs and cats – with senior citizens,” says Smith.
Purina subsidizes the adoption program so that fees are low: $20 for a cat; $35 for a dog.
Although some other communities in the U.S. have similar programs, Palm City’s is unique in that the humane society will take a pet back free of charge if the owner is hospitalized and return it when the owner has recovered.
There are proven health benefits to owning a pet.
“It lowers your blood pressure,” says Smith’s partner Liz Villasurda. “You have a purpose to get up in the morning. With a dog, it means you get out and walk a little, so overall your health improves.”
“It reduces stress,” Smith adds. “It’s good for people who are depressed or lonely, especially with seniors who have lost a spouse or relative. Smith and Villasurda have found homes for pets with people who are as old as in their 80s.
What’s important about this story beyond the happy ending for older people and older pets is that it can be a template for solving other kinds of problems that when put together in this manner, solve themselves.
One that comes to mind is a Connecticut community that needs a new elementary school. It also needs a new senior center. Older folks outnumber younger ones in this community and they have blocked the school, and the senior center has not been built either. How about if they build the school and used it as a senior center in the afternoons when the kids have gone home, in the evenings and weekends?
They would probably need to write a couple of new town regulations to make it happen, but when there is only so much money to go around, we need to be creative in finding solutions that benefit the largest number of people and to me, one of the biggest wastes in our country is single-use buildings that lie idle a majority of the time.
I think the women who started Save Our Seniors on onto something that has implications way beyond older pets and people. Can you think of two problems in your community - or even your family - that could be solved by putting them together in the manner of old dogs and old people in this Florida town?