In 2018 Mars Petcare brand Pedigree launched a trial for a new initiative ‘Pedigree Dog Dates’ which sought to tackle the issue of loneliness amongst older people by matching local residents over the age of 65 with dogs and their owners in the local area.
We set out to trial the initiative with older adults interested in making new friends through dogs in the UK’s most Dog Friendly Town, Melton Mowbray. The event took place in April in Melton Country Park, where over 40 people came together for their dates. Participants arrived in the afternoon and once attendants were paired up with their local dog and owners, began their walk and established new social connections.
The positive impact animals can have in combatting feelings of isolation was recognised in the Government’s Loneliness Strategy, published in October 2018. The case study referenced of Anchor Care Home’s pet-friendly policies reflected our own experience of re-homing a rescue cat at Legra Residential Care Home, helping to address loneliness and isolation felt by some residents. The manager reported that the cat, Bunny, immediately had an impact on the residents, offering them ‘something to think about, someone to look after, and (making) them feel more part of society, more part of life’.
In December 2018, we hosted a roundtable event on the subject of loneliness, bringing together industry-leading representatives in the sector to discuss how we can tackle the barriers to responsible pet ownership, so that more people can experience these benefits. The subsequent report identified a number of areas referenced in the 2018 Loneliness Strategy where we feel there is an opportunity to develop schemes which harness the benefits of human animal interaction and promote responsible pet ownership.
Mars Petcare UK is now working with partners across the UK Government and the third sector to explore how we can take forward the recommendations from the Loneliness Strategy.