All research report rights reserved to Meals on Wheels America.
“One in four seniors lives alone and one in four feels lonely. Efforts to address loneliness and social isolation are central to the program and research goals of Meals on Wheels America. Local Meals on Wheels programs provide clients with a wide variety of regular companionship opportunities to help promote socialization, such as telephone reassurance, friendly visitor and pet programming.
Research shows that seniors with pets are less likely to exhibit depression, report feelings of loneliness and experience illness. In fact, for many pet-owning older adults, their pet is their closest companion and only source of comfort. In 2019, PetSmart Charities® granted funds to Meals on Wheels America for a three-year partnership to provide home-delivered pet meals and veterinary care to pets of homebound seniors, as well as fund research to assist both organizations in understanding the needs of clients and the barriers that they face.
To further explore isolation, loneliness and the role pets play in providing comfort and companionship to Meals on Wheels clients, Meals on Wheels America embarked on a research project from July 2020 through January 2021 – during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this research project, Meals on Wheels America aimed to better understand the specific needs, challenges and opportunities available to clients and the Meals on Wheels network in addressing gaps in pet care.
This project presented a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between social services and animal welfare. The purpose of this research included the following:
- Analyze Meals on Wheels client perceptions of pet companionship;
- Analyze the extent to which pet support programs empower socialization and reduce social isolation; and
- Offer a profile of Meals on Wheels pet-owning clients.
The subsequent report – Meals on Wheels Pet Programming and Client Needs Assessment – examines results from a telephone survey conducted of Meals on Wheels clients with pets, providing new insight into the pet program needs among Meals on Wheels programs that are members of Meals on Wheels America. Note that only clients with pets were included in this study, so a comparative population of clients without pets is not available in this dataset.”