A Springfield senior living community is one of just a handful of facilities in Ohio that have added a dog park for residents and their pets.
Mercy Health - Oakwood Village is already pet-friendly, but the staff is hopeful that this “early Christmas gift” will go even further in bringing residents a higher quality of life.
“It brings such a joy,” said Mercy Health - Oakwood Village Senior Living Executive Director Annette Turner. “So even if they can’t have a pet themselves, they can come appreciate and watch the pets play.”
The idea for the park came about when Cheryl Hainey, gifts officer with the Mercy Health Foundation for Clark and Champaign Counties asked residents what they’d like to see at Oakwood Village.
There’s about a dozen residents who currently have dogs at Oakwood.
Dogs and therapy dogs have been a growing statewide trend across senior living communities, but dog parks are a new concept that brings dog owners and non-dog owners together.
Leading Age Ohio, an association that represents hundreds of senior living communities in the state, says dogs and other pets can have extraordinary mental benefits for an age group that is more susceptible to loneliness and depression.
“There was some information that was shared with us recently that social isolation really can be as harmful to an older adult as smoking cigarettes,” said Leading Age Ohio Spokesperson Patrick Schwartz.
Leading Age Ohio President & CEO Kathryn Brod recalled a dog park that hosts a “Yappy Hour” at a senior living community in Virginia that has proven to be very successful, as well a facility in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, that has spaces for both dogs and goats — who serve double-duty as pets and lawnmowers.
“They’re coming up with clever ways to create social circles around pets,” she continued on to say, “For others that animal is a just real lifeline to being socially engaged.”
The park was funded completely by donations — a big chunk coming from Fulton’s Finest 4-H Club and Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy.
Both groups have big presences at Oakwood Village.
“The residents here all enjoy dogs,” said Forrest Hamilton with Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy. “Very seldom do you run into a resident that says ‘No, I don’t wanna see a dog. They all wanna see dogs.”
Peggy Rodrigue with Fulton’s Finest said she anticipates her group and Best Friends using the new park to host “play dates.”
“We can do therapy — let people sit on the benches and even just watch,” she said. “That’s therapy without even touching the dog.”
The park is open to any resident at any stage of care offered at Oakwood Village, as well as Oakwood Village employees, their families and the broader Villa Road community.
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.