Joan Reidy adopted a 2-year-old dog from her local shelter and named her Babygirl.
CNN  — 

Joan Reidy, 67, watches and laughs as her new dog Babygirl darts around the backyard.

“I call them ‘zoomies’ because they run and run. So energetic!” Reidy told CNN. “I have to keep up with her and so we go on a lot of walks. She is really good for my health, and I think I am good for her, too.”

Joan Reidy takes her dog Babygirl on numerous walks  along Lake Erie.

Throughout the pandemic, Reidy has worked out of her house in Lorain, Ohio. When she took Babygirl home, Reidy said the pup brought new energy and purpose to her quarantined life.

“This year for the pandemic there are a lot of people isolated. I think if they have a pet it makes a big difference,” Reidy told CNN. “It is another being in the house, and having someone that you are taking care of is important.”

Helping seniors afford four-legged friends

Each year the non-profit Pets for the Elderly helps more than 5,000 seniors pay the cost to adopt a pet. Now they are expanding their program to help cover the expense of keeping one, including food and veterinary care at participating shelters.

Susan Kurowski, the non-profit’s executive director, said her organization has received calls from seniors under financial strain who are worried they can no longer afford their pet.

By expanding into grant assistance for pets’ upkeep, the organization hopes to help seniors keep their furry friends.

The benefits of owning a pet

The CDC reports there are many medical benefits for owning a pet, including decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. And according to a study by the American Heart Association, pet ownership is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

Pets can also have a positive effect on a person’s anxiety and mood. The American Psychological Association reports that pets can be an important source of social and emotional support.

Kurowski argues the benefits of owning a pet are even greater for senior citizens.

“We call it bridging the isolation gap,” she said. “Older people take better care of themselves when they know someone is relying on them, and a pet gives them that responsibility, that bond. So they are more likely to stick to a routine, take medications on time, go for a walk and most of all, have someone that they can to talk to, laugh and play with.”

Pets can help bring older couples together

Chet and Betty Lou Switzer, who have been married 42 years, recently adopted a 2-year-old dog named Lucka.

“He has brought a lot of humor to us, because we just laugh,” Chet told CNN. “If you find the right dog as a couple, you will just be laughing together as your pet works his way into your family. And Lucka has done just that.”

Chet and Betty Lou Switzer from Walnut Bend, Texas, hold their new dog, Lucka.

Pets can help give couples a shared commitment and daily routine they can bond over. Chet said that bringing Lucka into their lives during this pandemic has given him and his wife something new and positive to share with each other.

“I think if anyone is considering a pet, it will help you get you through some hard times. They are such a good companion for the both of you, and they might be the most stable thing in your life in 2020.”