Pet grandpas and grandmas to the rescue

Pet grandpas and grandmas to the rescue

A Dutch foundation is breaking down barriers by bringing together elderly people and lonely pets.

August 19, 2020

Pets are good for us. Extensive scientific research has focused on the effects of being around animals and the benefits are widely established. Companion animals can have an especially positive impact on the lives of elderly people by giving company and emotional support, a healthy routine and reason to exercise. Having a pet also encourages people to interact … because it seems we all want to talk about animals! 

As we age, however, owning an animal can become increasingly difficult. Many apartment buildings and homes for the elderly have strict regulations—or may simply ban them. Those on a limited income may find the cost of pet ownership prohibitive. And concern about who will take care of a pet should anything happen, can cloud enthusiasm.

Bringing lives together
In 2012, with the goal of providing a more active life for seniors and dogs, Sofie Brouwer set up the Dutch non-profit foundation OOPOEH. Literally, “Grandpas and Grandmas Look After a Pet”, the association matches seniors looking to take care of a pet part-time with pet owners seeking to provide their animal with care and attention when they’re not around.

It’s a winning equation that’s brought together countless people and animals, bridging the age divide, and creating unexpected, lasting bonds.

“When our last dog died, I was 80 years old. Dogs have always been part of the family. But our dogs were all 13 or 14 years old and we didn't want a new dog to survive us … I noticed that as I got older, I was more likely to stay indoors. Now that Malu is with us three days and two nights a week, I take lovely walks again.”

- Bert (dog sitter) 

“They are such very sweet people. Apart from the care for Malu, I am very happy that we got to know them. We recently took them out for dinner and talked about everything. It's great to hear their life stories. We’ve made wonderful new friends.”

- Cocky (dog owner) 

How it works 
The pet match-making service is free for seniors. Dog owners pay a membership fee and a monthly charge for the peace of mind of knowing that their pet is getting exercise and stimulation at times when they can’t provide them.

In September 2019, the OOPOEH Foundation won the inaugural edition of the BetterWithPets Prize, a collaboration between Nestle Purina and Ashoka which recognizes social innovators who best exemplify the power of the pet-human bond. 

And what a bond it is!
Find out more about OOPOEH, on their website and on Facebook.

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