New program in Washington DC connects seniors with pets for emotional support amid pandemic

A new program aims to combat isolation among seniors in Washington D.C. amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL) along with the Human Rescue Alliance, announced a program, called ‘Senior Pet Connect’ that will allow seniors to engage with pets in foster care through a Zoom call or a socially-distanced visit.

DACL stated, “The goal will be to support our efforts in combatting isolation by enabling homebound seniors to interact with pets, whether virtually or in-person.”

According to the Washingtonian, the first video call happened recently, during which five seniors invited by the city’s Department of Aging hung out virtually with five different pets (including a chicken).

ABC7 reports that several of the seniors on the Zoom call were smiling and at times laughing at the various pets popped up on the screen. They also asked questions and shared their own stories about pets past and present. One dog even performed tricks on cue during the virtual visit, and was rewarded with treats from his owner. A macaw squawked and flapped his wings as his owner introduced him to the online audience.

The first Zoom call for Senior Pet Connect (image: Department of Aging and Community Living)

“We know this last year has been really tough for all of us. It’s really reinforced the important role that animals have on all of us. They’ve really served as a lifeline, and as a means of socialization when so many of us have been lonely and isolated,” said Dani Rizzo with the Humane Rescue Alliance. “And while we can’t be together quite yet in-person, we thought the next best thing would be a video call.”

The program aims to combat isolation through the shared love of pets (image: Department of Aging and Community)

The Humane Rescue Alliance has protected and cared for the animals of Washington D.C. for more than 150 years. The Alliance states that it enriches the humanity of its communities by promoting compassion and encouraging people to find joy, comfort, and companionship through the love and appreciation of animals.

The Department of Aging and Community Living serves District residents 60 and older, adults living with disabilities, and those who care for them. In partnership with more than 20 community-based organizations across the city, it offers more than 40 free or low-cost programs to help all District residents ‘live boldly at any age, stage, or ability.’

For those who may be interested or know a senior who is interested in participating, they can email: dacl.communications@dc.gov.

A dog outdoors (image: cottonbro from Pexels)

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