This nonprofit is making it easier for older adults and rescue pets to share love and companionship.

There's no reason we should give up adoring pets as we get older. In fact, studies suggest a little kitty cuddle or dog walk might be exactly what increases healthy longevity, reduces depression, and eases feelings of loneliness for some people in their golden years. That's why the mission of nonprofit Pets for the Elderly (PFE) is to encourage heart matches between seniors and deserving rescue animals who are in need of a loving home.

PFE partners with 57 shelters in 35 states to ease the burden of pet adoption for seniors. It's the only national organization with this specific focus. According to the ASPCA, first-year adoption costs can total up to $1,000. So PFE donation-based funding allows certified shelter programs to pay for a portion of routine veterinary care, surgery, food, home visits, and grooming.

ronnie holding kitten named queen bee
Credit: Courtesy of Cleveland Animal Protective League

And it works! Since 2002, more than 100,000 seniors have welcomed new pets into their lives—often just when they need them the most.

Here's one of our favorite stories. Ronnie in Euclid, Ohio, was advised by his counselor to get a companion animal. Because he has mobility issues, he didn't want a dog. Instead, he tells Daily Paws that he had his heart set on a young kitten, preferably white or gray

But when his family joined him in the search at the Cleveland Animal Protective League, one of PFE's partner shelters, they fell in love with squeezable domestic shorthair Queen Bee, shown above, now 5 months old (and black and white). Ronnie lives with his son, who's a truck driver and is gone a lot. But now he's never alone because he has Queen Bee, who he says he absolutely adores, and his grandkids come over frequently to visit both of them.   

diana walking her dog Wally
Credit: Courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control

We also love the tale of Diana and Wally. Diana visited Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control in Charlotte, N.C. after a previous canine friend passed away. Initially wanting a small dog, Wally changed her mind. "He's not at all what I was looking for, but when I saw him on the animal control site, I just had to go get him," she tells Daily Paws. "He's about 1 1/2 years old and a ball of energy. If I could bottle some of that energy, I would be rich!"

PFE's program helps people over 60 bring home their best pet pal. Diana says she was expecting to have to pay to get Wally, and was pleasantly surprised when she learned the program not only took care of the fees, but also offered six months of heartworm and flea prevention. "This is a wonderful program, though I consider myself a senior, not elderly," she laughingly adds.  

She and her family did a DNA test on Wally, and were shocked to discover he's a mix of 16 different breeds, including 20 percent German shepherd and 7 percent—wait for it—Chihuahua! Diana says it doesn't matter—he makes them laugh, loves them as much as they love him, and has a few lifestyle benefits.

"He needs lots of exercise, so I walk for him—something I had a hard time doing by myself. He needs play time, too, so it allows me play time," she says. "He gives us more to talk about and helps keep us connected. This wonderful dog really did change my life for the better!"  

PFE hopes to continue to expand its program reach to include several shelters in each of the 50 states by the end of 2022. All we can say is if the results are this good, this program should be in every city and town, too!