POOPS – Caring for pets of older people

Derek and a thirsty Patch

POOPS (Pets for older persons) is a volunteer-run organisation that helps older people look after pets when they cannot do so on their own. Many older pet lovers are reluctant to replace their pet when it dies for fear they will not be able to care for the new pet and may not live as long.

Poops volunteers provide pet welfare where clients cannot afford or are unable to provide pet care, such as regular dog walking, transport to vet, groomer or boarding, post-vet care and persuading the pets to take their medications.

Pets can reduce loneliness, which is a big killer of older people. For seniors living on their own a pet is the next best thing to human company. 

Moreover, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, research shows that pet ownership may delay dementia in people living on their own and improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. People living with no one but their pets had slower rates of decline in verbal memory and fluency than people living fully alone, but pet ownership didn’t make a difference to those living with other humans.

Dogs also provide elderly people with motivation to leave the house for a walk and there is no better way to meet your neighbours than while walking the dog.

Poops helps seniors, people in palliative care at home and people with a disability who are unable to walk their pets. They also help to rehome pets when the need arises, for example when their owner dies or moves into residential care or elsewhere where pets are not permitted. 

Retired carpenter Derek Silcox (80) joined POOPS and is one of their oldest and most regular volunteer dog walkers.

“When I retired in 2011, I did not want to sit around doing nothing. I saw an article about dog walkers in the local paper and applied.

“I love walking with animals. I used to walk our own dog, until it died.” 

Derek walks three mornings a week in Hilton and Yangebup, although Poops volunteers are only required to walk on one day a week. He has walked several different dogs over the years.

“I walk twice with Patch and the other day with a different dog; all dogs are fine with me, big or small.”

Derek also cycles and likes to be committed to this regular exercise.

“Getting my exercise is a reason for dog walking, it is good for the dog and good for me.”

Dog walking has a social side too.

“I also get to meet and chat with lots of people. The dogs do the first introduction. Most people walking their dog are pretty happy to stop and have a chat.”

Poops say they are not able to provide pet sitting or boarding during holidays or hospital stays. They provide emergency help, but only for regular clients.

If you need support to keep your pet, ring 1300 110 092 and leave a message, send an email to admin@poopswa.org.au or visit the Poops website www.poopswa.org.au/clients/. 

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Frank Smith was trained as an agricultural scientist in the UK, moving to WA in 1974 and shortly afterwards began lecturing at WAIT (now Curtin University) in soils and agronomy. In 1979 he joined the Agriculture Protection Board in charge of publications and media relations, studying part time for a degree in Journalism. In 1992 he spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Later he ran a small publication company with his wife Mary-Helen. He then began freelance writing, editing and book indexing. He has written articles for more than 40 magazines in four continents and indexed more than 20 books. In 2007 he started writing for Have a Go News and gradually reduced his writing for other publications. He later took over the subediting, ensuring Have a Go News is consistent in style and highly readable. He and Mary-Helen live in a passive solar home in the Perth Hills with a varying collection of quendas and native birds.