The survey results emphasise the significant role that pets play in reducing loneliness and improving mental and physical health for older adults. Despite the clear benefits, the survey reveals a lack of support from aged care facilities and government-funded programs, indicating the urgency for action to keep older people and their beloved pets together.
Surprisingly, only 18% of aged care facilities in Australia currently allow residents to keep a companion animal, despite 86% of older adults reporting improved mental and physical health with pets in such settings. This significant gap highlights the need for a shift in policy and practises within aged care facilities to recognise the enduring value of the human-animal bond.
It also brings attention to the lack of government support for older adults with pets who receive in-home care. Alarmingly, 91% of those with pets who receive government-funded Home Care Packages do not receive any assistance to care for their companion animals.
With 74% of older adults reporting that their pets provide companionship and reduce loneliness, it is crucial to address this gap in support.
To address the emotional harm caused by separating older adults from their pets, the Pet Friendly Aged Care division of CANA aims to keep older people and their pets together for as long as it benefits both the owner and the animal. By advocating for policy changes and promoting the inclusion of pets in aged care facilities, CANA aims to increase the uptake of aged care services among older Australians and decrease the number of pets surrendered to shelters.
The survey identifies a lack of education among aged care providers and insufficient funding for accommodating pets as the main barriers to pet ownership in aged care settings. CANA emphasises the importance of education and knowledge dissemination regarding the benefits of pet ownership, as well as the need for funding to facilitate necessary design changes within facilities.
CANA actively collaborates with residential facilities that allow pets, offering resources, policies and guidelines for aged care providers.
They also encourage lobbying for laws and funding that promote pet ownership in aged care and urge individuals to volunteer their time or make donations to support their cause.