To combat social isolation, virtual visits connect elders with pets.
Older New Yorkers can learn more about a free program that uses video chat for virtual visits with pets and their ownersand reserve a virtual visit at https://petstogether.org.
Using the therapeutic power of pets, the state Office for the Aging is assisting in bringing people and pets together in an effort to minimize stress, social isolation, and loneliness among the state's older individuals.
For virtual pet visits, the application employs video chat.
The campaign, which began in January, is a collaboration between the state OFA, AgingNY, and Pets Together, a nationwide charity.
At https://petstogether.org, older New Yorkers can learn more about this free initiative and schedule a virtual visit.
A Pets Together video visit lasts approximately 30 minutes. Participants are able to visit with volunteer pet owners to observe and learn about their animals. The discussion provides an opportunity for participation in order to overcome social isolation.
Dogs to bearded dragons, cats to ponies, goats, and birds are among the featured pets.
Pets are well-known for their therapeutic qualities, as well as their ability to spark discourse. These two characteristics, when combined, go a long way toward reducing the serious health consequences of loneliness and social isolation, according to state OFA Director Greg Olsen.
Social isolation was called a "global epidemic" by the US Surgeon General in 2017, and it has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 health emergency. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, social isolation costs the Medicare system an additional $6.7 billion per year. Loneliness and isolation have health risks comparable to smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes every day. Interacting with animals has also been proved to be an effective remedy, lowering blood pressure and reducing loneliness, tension, and anxiety, according to studies.
Our program has proven to be a terrific opportunity for volunteers, seniors, and facility residents to connect and interact, and it's also a lot of fun, said Jennifer Bashford, Executive Director of Pets Together. To engage with the audience, our volunteers have chats about their dogs. Every visit is unique, and you never know which animal will answer the phone or how they will act. Because many of our volunteers are retirees, they have developed a close community. Pets have the power to bring people together.
Pet owners are encouraged to join the Pets Together network as volunteers. Visit https://petstogether.org/pets-together-volunteer/ to discover more about volunteer opportunities.
The Pets Together collaboration is one of a number of innovative initiatives spearheaded by the state OFA to address social isolation, supplementing professionally structured social programs provided by Area Agencies on Aging and its partners. The state OFA has also recently formed partnerships with GetSetUp, an online learning community that connects 54,000 senior citizens in New York to interactive sessions that promote physical, mental, and social wellness.
Area Agencies on Aging in New York provide critical socialization programs that assist older persons in remaining connected. We're excited to supplement those offerings by collaborating with innovative partners like Pets Together to reach older adults in new and innovative ways, combining the power of technology with the soothing presence of animals, said Becky Preve, Executive Director of the Association on Aging in New York.