Having a pet is good for seniors. Studies show that a senior with a pet is 36 percent less likely to report they are lonely. Having a pet also cuts down on the number of doctor’s visits, the studies say.

That’s why the Southern Maine Agency on Aging in Scarborough sought a grant from the Meals on Wheels Loves Pets initiative to help area seniors with the costs of maintaining their pets.

The agency recently received a $1,000 grant from the Best Friend Fund, which is designed to help low-income older adults in southern Maine pay for pet-related expenses.

“Due to rising cost of living expenses, many older Mainers are faced with choosing between basic needs such as food, medications, heat or electricity (and) during these tough times, discretionary expenses such as pet costs can become overwhelming for older adults,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

“Sadly,” he added, “we are hearing from Meals on Wheels drivers that some meal recipients are only eating portions of their meals in order to save food to offer their beloved pets. At SMAA, we understand and value the relationships between older adults and their pets, and the important socialization and companionship those relationships provide.”

In total, the Meals on Wheels Loves Pets program has given out $300,000 to 162 local providers this year.

“The Meals on Wheels Loves Pets initiative is just another way that Meals on Wheels can deliver so much more than just a meal,” Ellie Hollander, the Meals on Wheels America president and CEO, said in a press release.

“Through grant funding, educational opportunities and in-kind donations for our member programs, we hope to grow current pet programs and help those looking to start new ones,” she added.

– Kate Irish Collins

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