AARP Eye Center
More than 700 miles away in Seattle, Ana Stark, 64, was worried about her 81-year-old widowed mother, Gladys Thayne, who lives alone in Salt Lake City.
Though Ana's sister also lives in Salt Lake City, the coronavirus pandemic coupled with her own health issues prevented the sibling from visiting their mom. The sisters suggested Thayne adopt a small dog to keep her company and let her get a bit of exercise. Via the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, Thayne was matched up with Hydee, a chihuahua — since renamed Chiquita — who had been in a foster home.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
"It was love at first sight,” Stark says. “Chiquita follows Mom all around the house and cuddles up to her while watching TV. She sleeps in her basket right next to Mom. It's been a win-win situation for both of them!"
Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits
As older adults find themselves alone and anxious amid the uncertainties of the pandemic, many are seeking companionship from new four-legged friends.
Lots of other people 50-plus, including those with loved ones at home, also are adopting or fostering dogs, cats and other animals such as bunnies and guinea pigs. They reckon sheltering in place has left them with more time to devote to a pet.
That time lets us “forge a strong bond with an animal in need of love and stability, and to receive the companionship and unconditional love for which our canine friends are famous,” says Jennifer Coombs, 54, who adopted a young rat terrier mix named Fig from Dauntless Dogs in Wilmington, North Carolina. “Fig has brought more joy and purpose to me than I have felt for a long time.”
Coombs lost two close family members in the past year before the coronavirus epidemic hit.
"Numerous studies have shown that contact with pets offers both physical and mental health benefits, including reduced stress and lower anxiety, helping us manage loneliness and depression and — during a crisis — offering moments of calm and peace when the news from the outside world is distressing and overwhelming,” says Julie Castle, chief executive of Best Friends in Utah. “They can also keep us active and give us a reason to walk outside and around the block (with proper social distancing, of course) when we feel locked down and isolated."
Foster programs see increases
The number of dogs and cats available for fostering appears to vary around the country.