Project help­ing el­derly con­nect with pets

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - SKARA BOHNY

A pi­lot pro­gramme by Aged Con­cern is bring­ing friendly dogs to the el­derly, to great suc­cess.

Age Con­nect co­or­di­na­tor Br­effni O’Rourke first be­gan PetCon­nect in Jan­uary, help­ing find vol­un­teer dogs to come along to Age Con­cern Tea and Talk events.

The first PetCon­nect took place on Jan­uary 17th, and was a roar­ing suc­cess.

‘‘Many older peo­ple are forced to give up their pets when they move into smaller ac­com­mo­da­tions,’’ O’Rourke said.

‘‘But they miss them, so we’re help­ing will­ing vol­un­teers share the love.’’

She said PetCon­nect was ‘‘about con­nect­ing older peo­ple with the un­con­di­tional love of an­i­mals’’.

O’Rourke made a face­book page and made an open in­vi­ta­tion for dog-own­ers to vol­un­teer their pets and their time for a visit.

‘‘I was hop­ing to get maybe six dogs. I think we got about 60,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s got so big so fast.’’ On Mon­day PetCon­nect had its first out­ing to a res­i­den­tial home, bring­ing dogs Taco, Ma­bel, Monty, and Dash to The Wood Re­tire­ment Vil­lage for an hour­long visit.

Res­i­dent Anne Brooks said she thought the pro­gramme was ‘‘fan­tas­tic’’.

‘‘We asked to have pet vis­its,’’ she said.

Brooks said hav­ing the dogs visit helped to feel more con­nected to the world.

‘‘You can get a lit­tle bit iso­lated, tucked in here.’’

Most of the res­i­dents ei­ther used to have dogs, or had dogs liv­ing with fam­ily off-site, and they loved get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the oblig­ing dog vol­un­teers.

A spokesper­son for The Wood Re­tire­ment Vil­lage said the vis­its would ‘‘def­i­nitely’’ carry on.

O’Rourke said the pro­gramme was al­ready get­ting too big for the num­ber of vol­un­teers they had, and she was look­ing for more peo­ple will­ing to help out.

MARTIN DE RUYTER/ THE LEADER

Rosie Seek, left, with her dog Taco and Lina Cun­ning­ham at the first PetCon­nect event at the Wood Re­tire­ment Vil­lage.

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