Canine visits for isolated residents

Diane Morton, furthest left, Sean Malone and Alfie, front, Julie Leddy, John Robson and Claire Finn, furthest right, from Bright Northumbria. Picture by Steve Brock.
Diane Morton, furthest left, Sean Malone and Alfie, front, Julie Leddy, John Robson and Claire Finn, furthest right, from Bright Northumbria. Picture by Steve Brock.

A new partnership operating in Northumberland is using man’s best friend to help combat loneliness among elderly people living on their own.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is working with Wag and Company North East Friendship Dogs to enable volunteers and their dogs to visit socially-isolated older dog lovers in their own homes.

It is the first time the charity, which operates across the region, has teamed up with an NHS trust to facilitate these visits. The partnership is supported by the trust’s Bright Northumbria charity.

John Robson is among those benefitting from the scheme.

Wag and Company professionally-assessed volunteer Sean Malone and his dog Alfie visit the 87-year-old at his home in Cramlington every fortnight.

John, who used to have a dog, said: “I cannot wait for the next visit – Sean is a lovely man and Alfie is a very nice dog.

“We have a good chat and it’s so lovely to be able to get out for a walk.

“I do get lonely living on my own, however I couldn’t manage to have a dog now.

“This is the best of both worlds and I think it’s a really worthwhile project.”

Julie Leddy is part of the support planning team at Northumbria Healthcare that refers people to the project.

She said: “The scheme is a great way for older people in Northumberland who would struggle with the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for a dog to have contact with a dog and friendship with its owner.

“In simple terms, loneliness and isolation are bad for people’s health, particularly older people.

“It is our duty as health professionals to open up opportunities for greater social interaction to help people to stay well at home and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

Diane Morton, founding director of Wag and Company, said: “Our visiting teams provide much-needed friends, with two and four legs, to visit people who can often feel isolated.”

If you feel you, or someone you know, would benefit from being referred to the scheme, call 01670 536400 and ask to speak to a support planner.