Data from a recent United Way report show that 23,000 Knox County seniors live in isolation. Knox PAWS, a unique local program, tries to address the problem by matching low-income seniors with adoptable animals. The program covers the cost of pet supplies, vaccinations, and all medical expenses.
Monica Brown, the Knox PAWS manager, says having a pet can help older adults become more active. “If you don’t have a pet, you could just potentially sit in your home look at the four walls and never speak to anybody. But guess what? That pet just made you get up, go for a walk, clean the house, fix some food, socialize.”
Pets can also help alleviate loneliness and isolation. One PAWS client, Brenda Wolfe, says getting a dog changed her life. “My mom had dementia and she had to be put in a facility and so I was pretty lonely, hated to even go in my apartment. Brownie just put a new light in my life.”
Knox PAWS matches their clients with older animals that can be difficult to place. “Most people don’t go into an animal shelter looking to adopt an older pet,” explains Brown. “They want the puppies and kittens so we’re not only helping the seniors in our community, and placing an animal with them, but we’re helping the animal shelters in reducing their intake or their numbers.” Currently, the PAWS is helping almost two-hundred seniors and their pets.