Senior citizens face some of the most difficult cost of living challenges in the territory while living on fixed incomes but few may consider that they often put their pets ahead of themselves.

Payton Walters, a 15-year-old student at Diamond Jenness Secondary School spent most of October raising money through recyclable donations to assist seniors in ensuring both they and their pet companions have enough to eat.

Payton attended the Arctic Foxy youth camp in the summer where she learned about leadership and sexual health. Following the program, she wanted to come up with an idea that would benefit seniors in her community.

“My mom and I decided, hey, this would be a really good thing because a lot of seniors spend more of their money on dog food than to feed themselves and a lot are going hungry because of that,” she said. “So I wanted to raise a bit of money to help them.”

Payton, along with her mother Lynnette Moore, posted a notice on Facebook on Oct. 6 requesting people provide recyclables from their homes for the cause of raising money for pet food. They then arrived at homes and collected the items to drop off at the recycling depot.

Between the date of the first social media post and Oct. 30, the two raised $850.

Payton, who works at the Super A grocery store, said the response around town has been positive when she has been in public.

“I was at a restaurant the other night and somebody had come up to me and said they were really appreciating (me) doing this so that was really nice,” she said.

“I work at a grocery store and I have had some people come up and say ‘You’re Payton and you’re doing this.’ It was really nice to see that I was affecting so many people in a positive way.”

The issue of seniors having special relationships with pets may be something that goes on unnoticed in society and Payton said she would like to continue raising awareness about the issue.

“A lot of seniors, I think, treat their pets like their children and so the animals are like a member of their families,” she said. “So some of the seniors put their pets above their own needs with the idea of providing food for the family members before yourself. It’s something that they probably do but not necessarily something that they want to do.”

Sandra Lester, vice-chair of the Hay River Seniors Society said that the issue of getting financial help for seniors caring for their pets has been an important one that her organization has been recently discussing.

“We had been talking about how much financial trouble it was for many seniors to feed and look after their pets, and we were going to explore options to help,” Lester said. It was to be an agenda item at a future meeting.

“One of the senior couples that I spoke to recently told me they literally can’t feed themselves and they feed their animals before they feed themselves. So this is a godsend.”

Lester said when she received a call from Moore looking for a way to help older people, that the help came at a perfect time and is “an incredible act of kindness.”

“I saw the perfect opportunity and asked if the pet food was something Payton would be interested in fundraising for,” she said.

“We are so grateful, we expected maybe $100 and that wonderful young lady raised $850. Amazing.”

Lester said the Senior’s Society is starting a dog/cat food program immediately and anyone needing help to feed their animals should contact her by email at hrss@northwestel.nt.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa.. Simon can be reached at (867)...

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