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Improving customer experience for elderly clients
Many older people chose to keep a pet for companionship.
Cx Congress highlights available services 

Many older people chose to keep a pet for companionship, particularly if they live on their own or do not have regular contact with their family. In an informative session at Cx Congress (17 June), Age UK’s Maria Cooke spoke about how veterinary practices can improve the customer experience for senior clients and listed some of the services that are available to them.

Senior manager Maria began the session by looking at some of the benefits pets can bring to older people. With rapid advances in communication, she noted that opportunities for a little personal contact are being lost. This is hitting the elderly population hard. Most people meet their friends through the workplace or their children, she said, but once we retire, there is no longer that common link.

This is why so many people chose to get a pet in later life. Pets give elderly people the opportunity to get out and interact with other dog walkers. As such, they are less likely to suffer feelings of isolation and loneliness. Pets are also great for health, encouraging their owners to take some exercise and get some fresh air.

Good communication is key to building client communication, but Maria stressed that veterinary practices might need to go that extra mile to help older clients avoid an over-dependent relationship with their pet. For example, a person who is dependent on their pet may suffer depression when the animal dies. One way that practices can help with this is to a host a regular OAP’s tea party, where clients can bring along their pooch and meet other elderly people in a similar situation.

Costly vets bills can also be a huge worry for those elderly people living on a tight budget, especially if their animal is not insured. Maria noted that veterinary practices can help here by offering senior clients a discount - 15 per cent off consultations, for example. Maria also recommends making clients aware of Turn2Us - a charity that helps people in financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.

Another way practices can help older clients is to direct them to The Cinnamon Trust - a national charity for the elderly and their pets. The Trust has a network of over 15,000 community service volunteers who provide practical help when any aspect of day-to-day care becomes a problem - for example, walking the dog for a housebound owner.

The Cinnamon Trust provides a fostering service for pets whose owners face a spell in hospital. It also gives long-term care for pets whose owners have died or moved to residential accommodation which will not accept pets. 

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 The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is launching a survey to improve understanding of aftercare for thoroughbreds. The survey has been emailed to trainers, who are asked to share their own experiences, with a focus on life after horses finish their racing careers. It forms part of an equine health and welfare strategy being developed by the BHA. 

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Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has appointed the actor Anthony Head and renowned canine behaviourist, Sarah Fisher, as official ambassadors. They join existing ambassadors Paul O’Grady, Amanda Holden, David Gandy and Jacqueline Wilson.

Anthony is best known for his roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Iron Lady and Girlfriends. He has previously lent his voice to Battersea’s videos and appeals, as well as performing readings at the charity’s Christmas Carol Concert and Collars & Coats Gala Ball.

Meanwhile Sarah has worked across all three of the charity’s centres, offering advice in dealing with a variety of complex and challenging dogs. She has also fostered several Battersea animals and trained many members of staff in using the Tellington Touch method of training, to keep dogs calm and relaxed.