TEMPE, AZ — Arizona State University researchers are looking to help Meals on Wheels expand their services for clients who have pets.
At 71 years old, health is top of mind for Meals on Wheels client Dale Eldridge.
Inside his Mesa Home, these days, it's just him and his two cats, Buddy Boy and Sweetie Pie Delight.
“It makes my life more complete, to have somebody that I can say 'I love you' and cuddle up with once in a while,” said Eldridge.
Without a car at his age, he relies on public transportation which is an added challenge to get food for himself and his feline family members.
So he relies on Meals on Wheels.
Dr. Aaron Guest is an Assistant Professor of Aging at ASU.
“Sometimes (clients) are unable to afford the food or the care so they split their meals with their pet,” said Dr. Guest.
Research done by Meals on Wheels found when their clients have pets, the companionship leads to stress reduction and helps battle loneliness. Even looking around the house for a cat or walking a dog can lead to physical health benefits.
The initial research found isolation or loneliness has been associated with “a multitude of increased adverse health factors, including increased mortality, increased risk of developing dementia, chronic diseases, heart failure and increased emergencies department visits.”
ASU is now building on that study.
Over the past several weeks, researchers with the Edson’s Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging have partnered with PetSmart Charities to ask hundreds of Meals on Wheels clients how they're feeding their pets.
The hope is the study will help find a way to expand services for getting food for everyone in the house, including those who may not sit at the table.
“I think going in, people thought it was just food. People need access to pet food. But it’s so much more than that when you’re caring for an animal. Can you get the cat litter up the porch steps? Can you take the packets of food on the bus?” said Dr. Guest.
Dale found his two cats in the neighborhood but he's not sure at this point who rescued who.
"My cats care for me because I care for them,” he said.