Spotlight on Innovation: PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), a Shanti Program

We're highlighting the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies used by the 2018 recipients of n4a's Aging Innovations Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week we're focusing on San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, winner in the Healthy Aging category.

Since 2016, San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services' Pets are Wonderful Support (PAWS), a Shanti Program, has offered a combination of care navigation, peer/volunteer support and pet services to assist and alleviate the heightened risks faced by the LGBT aging and disability community in San Francisco and their pets. Pets are often an entry point for a relationship between the PAWS program and clients, resulting in a level of trust that enables the Care Navigator to offer additional case management services to pet owners.
While PAWS began at Shanti in the 1980s, the partnership between the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services and Shanti-PAWS began after a 2012 community-wide LGBT Aging Policy Task Force. The task force studied LGBT older adults as a group, identified issues and challenges they face, and made recommendations towards removing barriers for this group. The task force found that LGBT older adults are at heightened risk for isolation and made recommendations for programs designed to reduce isolation. This finding and recommendation led to the partnership, allowing PAWS to provide animal bonding services as an innovative strategy to reduce isolation in this vulnerable population. This partnership has allowed PAWS to more specifically target the LGBT aging and disability populations.
In FY 2016/2017, the program provided services to 56 clients and 798 hours of care navigation. The 35 volunteers who were recruited and trained provided 3,477 hours of peer support. The program continued to grow in FY 2017/2018, with more than 2,000 hours of care navigation provided to more than 100 clients.

To learn more about this year's winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community!



USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!