ElderDog helps seniors care for pets
Alzheimer's researcher says dogs help patients find companionship
More than two dozen volunteers have signed up with a new Halifax program called ElderDog to help seniors take care of their animals.
Sol Viner, 86, lives with his two dogs in his Dartmouth bungalow. Army and Sergeant are his seventh pair of dogs.
"I'm close to them," he said. "I enjoy them and they probably helped me reach 86."
But Viner said he can't do all that is needed to care for his German Shepherds, so he gets help from ElderDog. Its volunteers walk his dogs, take them to the vet and help with grooming.
"I don't want to sound mushy, but ElderDog has been a tremendous aid, help, companion to me with the dogs and with the house," Viner said.
The group was founded by Ardra Cole, a researcher at Mount Saint Vincent University who has studied aging and caregiving for a decade.
"Having a dog in their life really gives them a reason to be. They find unconditional love and companionship. When no one else is around, the dog is there," she said.
She said some seniors who are unable to properly care for their pets are reluctant to seek help, as they fear the pets may be taken away.
"It's a big concern. There are a number of concerns. Sometimes seniors may not know that they're not able to care for the dogs properly," she said.
ElderDog is meant to bridge that gap by keeping dogs healthy and active, and keeping them with the seniors who love them.