It’s no secret that the global impact of COVID-19 was incredibly significant for people of all ages. Children were taken out of school, many adults lost their jobs, grocery stores and pharmacies shut down, and not one of us was well prepared for any of it.
Perhaps the demographic most significantly affected by this pandemic was senior citizens, especially those in nursing homes or care facilities. Due to the enormous risk to their health, many seniors were kept from seeing their friends and family.
In fact, some seniors are still quarantined regularly to this day with concerns for their health and safety.
It’s easy to imagine the harsh effects that this level of separation from loved ones can have on a person, both mentally and emotionally. The University of Michigan performed a study on this exact topic twelve months into a seemingly endless pandemic.
This study measured changes in the mental health state of senior citizens since the start of the pandemic, and the results were quite disturbing.
The study found that older adults between the ages of 50 and 80 reported increased depression, anxiety, and trouble sleeping since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than one in four older adults said that for several days or more within the past two weeks, they had little pleasure in doing things (29%) or felt depressed or hopeless (28%). One in three (34%) reported feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge, and 44% said they felt stressed. More than one in three older adults (37%) reported feeling a lack of companionship, and 46% reported feeling isolated from others in the past year. ” – University of Michigan
With one of every three older adults feeling a lack of companionship, it’s no wonder that non-profit organizations and the like went to work to try to better the lives of the seniors in our communities.
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Purina Cat Chow has joined forces with two amazing non-profits to improve the mental health of senior citizens.
Purina, along with Pet Partners (animal therapy) and Institute on Aging, has created an amazing opportunity for seniors to interact with therapy cats safely and easily via virtual pet therapy visits.
For the entire month of May, seniors over the age of sixty can call Institute on Aging’s “Friendship Line” via their phone, tablet, or computer to schedule their very own virtual cat therapy visit. How purrfect!
There are fifty available slots for this program, funded by Purina. What’s more: Purina Cat Chow is donating a portion of its sales for the entire month to Pet Partners for the continued sponsorship of therapy cats.
Interactions with therapy animals, even online, have been shown to increase feelings of connection to the world around us and perceptions of social support. They have also been shown to decrease anxiety levels and alleviate feelings of depression.
Annie Peters, CEO of Pet Partners, anticipates this program to be a huge success:
“While nothing replaces the emotional connection of petting a cat, research shows engaging with virtual pet content can still be impactful, while also keeping all parties safe,” said Annie Peters, President & CEO of Pet Partners. “In fact, one study… showed that even watching animal videos has been correlated with a more positive effect for the viewer, leading to an enhanced mood and increased feelings of positivity.”
This project has stirred up quite a bit of attention on social media, with cat-lovers of all ages leaving comments on both Purina and Pet Partner’s pages. Many have taken their own stories to the internet, sharing how positive it is to have cats of their own.
Young cat-lovers are expressing jealousy that they do not qualify for the program, asking, “Is this only for seniors? I’d love to do this for myself! ”
The Friendship Line can be reached at 800-616-5152. If you or someone you love can benefit from a virtual cat therapy visit (because who can’t ??), call to schedule your appointment today.
Featured Image: Facebook