Story provided by Aging Advocates
Many people agree that pets provide hope and stability for the elderly. It places them in the context of ‘here and now” rather than focusing on what tomorrow may bring, which may be scary for an aged person. Pets give them a sense of caring and anticipation that is thought to be necessary for wellness and emotional health.
Brenda Merritt, Director of MICAH Foundation, has created a mission of caring about seniors suffering from emotional poverty. For over 17 years, she has provided programming through statewide volunteers who visit the elderly on a regular basis in hopes of lessening or even eradicating “emotional poverty” and stress experienced by these older folks. “These individuals may not have relatives close by or even close by who are able to visit them on a regular basis,” says Brenda. People in the community can help bridge the intergenerational gap by visiting and learning about needs of these long-term community citizens.
A MICAH Foundation partnership program was started at Oklahoma State University through the Student Volunteer Center that credits OSU student volunteers who want to visit the elderly in homes, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and retirement homes. “The program, MICAH Mentors, has seen over 100 volunteers spend their time and talents with the local elderly,” said Joyce Montgomery, Coordinator for the campus Student Volunteer Center. The students attend training and then are matched through activity directors in the facilities.
Primrose Retirement Center sent residents with caregivers to the OSU Campus two years running, to thank students for their interaction and positive relationships. By interacting with the seniors, students were able to compare concepts with those of parents, grandparents, and others in a lens of normal life progression. The Student Volunteer Center has received many positive comments from students and those they serve in this capacity, according to the OSU coordinator. Fehintola Folarin, a graduate student at OSU said, “The experience has been mind -blowing, and reveals misconceptions people may have about the elderly who continue to be happy and sound by enjoying life as it goes by.”
In the past two years, OSU alumni have also shown an interest in the program. One such person, JoAnna Jamison, from Bixby, OK has been helping out as a liaison between the SVC and the resident facilities. She and her husband, Ric, own a home locally and help out with the program whenever they can. JoAnna delivers dog food to residents in need in the Bixby, OK, area and with her experience and guidance, the SVC is introducing a program in Stillwater, the MICAH Pet Food Project, to deliver pet food to seniors who are in need. The SVC recently bagged, donated dog food and distributed it to pet owners at Senior Residences in Stillwater. OSU student volunteers are being recruited to deliver pet food locally, and to provide visitation to the elderly who may be looking for resources for their animals.
To inquire about the MICAH Pet Food Program, call the OSU Student Volunteer Center, at 744-5145 or email [email protected].
Aging Advocates, a group of area businesses and agencies in the Stillwater area, come together monthly to advocate for older adults. From their experiences, they innovate ideas and raise awareness of older adult issues. It is important to look at the developing needs of the different aging population and look to support, educate and find services valuable to a life fully lived.