Dr. Ardra Cole is the Founder and Chair of ElderDog Canada– a national non-profit and registered charity, headquartered in NS and dedicated to seniors and their canine companions.
ElderDog Canada, founded in 2009, was inspired by Ardra’s long-standing program of research in the area of caregiving and seniors, her experience with Tattoo in animal-assisted therapy with seniors in long-term care, and by an old and ill chocolate Lab named Mr. Brown.
In 2015, Ardra received the Urban Animal Foundation Innovation Award for her work in creating ElderDog Canada. Ardra is Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University where she does research into the role of dogs in seniors’ lives.
ElderDog Canada: Supporting Seniors and their Canine Companions
As a university researcher and leader of a national organization dedicated to the human-animal bond, I bridge two realms. In the proposed paper, I make a four-part presentation that will provide: 1) the research backdrop to ElderDog Canada–a national non-profit focused on supporting the relationship between ageing people and ageing dogs; 2) an overview of ElderDog Canada and its programs to support seniors and their canine companions; 3) narrative snapshots of some of the seniors and their dogs supported by ElderDog; and 4) key issues and challenges faced by seniors who benefit from and are committed to canine companionship.
ElderDog Canada is a national non-profit dedicated to supporting older people, older dogs, and the important relationship they enjoy. The work of ElderDog includes providing seniors in-home assistance with basic dog care, finding new homes for older dogs who have lost their human due to illness, death, or relocation, helping seniors find a mature canine companion to “grow old with,” and educating the public about the important role of dogs in seniors’ lives.
For both well seniors and those who are less active, dogs are a source of reliable companionship and an enhancement to quality of life, especially to those who feel lonely and isolated–a significant problem for many seniors in North America. Animals help elderly people gain a renewed sense of purpose and increased sense of self-worth as well as a stronger sense of independence. Most older adults express a desire to remain living in their own home as they age. Often they want to do so in order to be able to remain with their companion animals. In 1981, The White House Conference on Aging made the bold statement that the comfort of a companion animal is a civil right not to be denied to responsible pet owners. This led to dramatic changes to policies on pets in federally-assisted rental housing in the US. The IFA Report of 2015 underscores the importance of communities and governments responding to the growth in the ageing population by developing and supporting age-friendly societies. These initiatives must include attention to the significant role of dogs in seniors’ health and well-being.
The complexity of issues related to preserving the animal-human bond for seniors, revealed in the presentation, will contribute to a conversation about the need for cross-sectoral strategies to include the human-animal bond as part of a broader strategy for the development of age-friendly communities.