Supporting older people’s wellbeing with pets

The benefits of animal companionship for human wellbeing are well proven. AAA member Our Special Friends helps hundreds of older people every year to benefit from animal companionship through difficult times.

Pets keep us active and help us to “de-stress”; they provide an opportunity to nurture and care for another being. They provide unconditional love and stability in an increasingly complex world.

For many of us, pets are much loved companions; but for vulnerable or isolated people, they are an immensely important lifeline to help stem loneliness and depression. They provide friendship, security and continuity.

Our Special Friends is a Suffolk-based charity whose community of volunteers are the eyes and the ears for the hidden vulnerable, both human and animal. Based on her own life experience, vet Belinda (Bin) Johnston set up Our Special Friends to help people to benefit from animal companionship through difficult times.

“Every day,” says Bin, “we are approached by, or on behalf of, people facing all kinds of adversity. Some are desperate not to relinquish their beloved pet: a vital source of comfort, stability and normality. Others have loved animals in their lives, but now find having their own animal companion is difficult.”

Our Special Friends assess and tailor support for around 500 cases a year by:

• Assisting people to look after their own pets, enabling them to stay together, e.g., dog walking, transport or pet care

• Regular visits from a volunteer and their friendly animal companion

• Accompanied dog walking

• Enabling veterinary care

• Arranging temporary ‘fostering to reunite’

• Support in bereavement and with difficult decisions

• Pet care planning

• Adoption support

• Empowering and identifying local support networks

Volunteering and referring

The work of Our Special Friends depends upon its volunteers, enhancing the lives of those they are helping – and enriching their lives too. A Volunteer Support Manager works closely with Volunteers to ensure that their roles are suitable and that they receive training and support.

If you would like to know more about the services Our Special Friends offers, or to enquire about becoming a volunteer, check out their website or drop them an email.

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