Golden Years: How Pets Add Life to Senior Living
“My face may be white, but my heart is pure gold. There is no shame in growing old.”
A pet’s love knows no boundaries, and there are few discomforts that their companionship cannot ease. While this holds true for all stages of life from children to seniors, in times of happiness and health, to times of loneliness and recovery, those who experience the greatest benefits may be the ones who need it most. Like pet therapy for children and people with disabilities, animals also have a special power for spiritual healing and physical well-being in senior citizens.
The popularity of pet-friendly senior housing has grown tremendously, and with good reason. According to A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior housing referral service, of all the inquiries they receive more than 40 percent ask if pets are permitted.
Having a pet offers seniors much-needed companionship in a time where they are likely to feel lonely or forgotten. The stress of moving and surrendering some or all of their independence can be eased by the presence of an animal. By nurturing a beloved pet, they are given mental stimulation, a sense of purpose, motivation to keep active, and may even be more likely to take better care of themselves. The benefits are endless.
To take advantage of the power of pets, senior housing complexes have multiple ways of incorporating furry friends into the routine. Some allow their residents to have in-house pets (weight/species restrictions vary), while others have ‘community pets’ that have free roam of the place or hang in communal areas. Even more communities employ visiting therapy animals to brighten up everyone’s day. Scientific studies have proven that just 15 minutes spent connecting with an animal can lower heart rate, decrease blood pressure and release serotonin. Over time, these benefits can reduce depression and even prevent serious health complications such as heart disease and strokes.
So whether your loved one has a full-time furry companion, or just the ability to spend time with one on a regular basis, the benefits are outstanding. Cooperation with the animal rescue community allows seniors and living centers various opportunities to take advantage of this incredible bond. Seniors for Seniors-type programs match senior citizens with a senior pet, and some even waive adoption fees. For those who aren’t able to care for an animal full time, pets can be ‘shared’ among multiple residents. Alternatively, seniors can foster through a local rescue organization and keep pets on a short-term basis, allowing them to save multiple lives through their own. Some assisted living centers even have Pet Care Coordinators that share in the responsibilities and management of in-house pets.
If you are considering pets for yourself or a loved one who is in senior or assisted living, contact the organizations director or reach out to a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. For a list of pet-friendly senior and assisted living communities by state, go here. Of course, the care of the animals is of the utmost importance for everyone involved, so speak with the appropriate representatives, depending on your situation. If you someone you know is currently a pet guardian, consider including the animals in an estate plan or trust to ensure their long-term comfort and well-being is secured.
“Senior pets: their affection is timeless, their devotion is endless, and their love is forever.”