Never underestimate the power of a pet to bring friendship and unconditional love to its owner. Numerous studies have documented the positive impact of pet ownership on the health of older adults. So it should come as no surprise that GenPhilly — a project of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging that encourages young professionals to connect with older adults and to understand the nuances of the aging system — rallied behind a special event that provides support for senior pet owners.
The July Pet-Tastic Happy Hour, hosted at North Bowl by owner Oron Daskal, brought together members of GenPhilly and the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter Junior Committee for a fun-filled evening of socializing, networking and bowling. “As a pet owner, hosting this event was a great opportunity to give back to our Jewish seniors and let our young professionals perform a mitzvah while enjoying themselves,” said Daskal.
Guests brought pet food or pet accessories for the pet companions of frail and isolated older adults. The toys were distributed by the Klein JCC to seniors who live alone with their feline or canine companions.
Brian Gralnick, director of Federation’s Center for Social Responsibility, organized the event. He commented that “the Jewish community is at the forefront of taking care of the whole family, including pets.” He added that “there is a growing interest in the community about more holistic approaches to caring for older adults whether it is Wii, yoga, gardening or pets.”
Projects like these are gaining in popularity. Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia has gained two new donors over the past couple of years who are passionate about maintaining the strong connections between seniors and their pets. Joanne Lippert, the co-director of adult and senior services at JFCS, explained that “we’ve provided support to our clients ranging anywhere from $25 pet food cards to $800 vet bills. We’ve served over 20 clients since the service began.”
Many of these programs are modeled after the Jewish Association Serving the Aging’s PETS Project, a program funded by the UJA-Federation of New York. PETS volunteers assist senior citizens living in Manhattan with tasks such as dog walking and cat care, shopping for pet supplies, transportation to veterinary appointments, shopping for pet supplies and pet boarding. Many of these tasks are too difficult for the older adult pet owners to perform.
Building upon the success of these and other programs that aid frail older adults and their furry friends, Federation will sponsor a project to help pets in need during its Mitzvah Mania community-wide day of social action on Sunday, Nov. 11, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Working in partnership with Animal Lifeline and RESCUE U — groups that transport animals from impoverished communities overrun with animals who cannot be adequately cared for and ultimately place them in loving homes — volunteers of all ages will help build raised beds for dogs and houses for feral cats, and collect both dog and cat toys.
These pet projects, the first in the five-year history of Mitzvah Mania, will be conducted at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley and at the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City. u
For more information about these and other Mitzvah Mania projects, call the hotline at 215-832-0557.
Paige Guber participated in the 2012 Franklin C. Ash summer internship program sponsored by JEVS Human Services.