Pets Improve Senior Living Environments

Julia Little  |  October 31, 2012

The number of retirement communities permitting pets has grown significantly over the past 10 years, and it's no surprise given the immense benefits cats, dogs and other animals offer seniors. The Chicago Tribune reports pets prove to lift the spirits and sometimes improve the physical health of older adults. This and requests from families have been encouraging more senior living communities to either allow residents to bring their pets with them to the community or have "resident pets" living in the community for everyone to enjoy.

A Place for Mom, the nation's largest senior living referral agency, found that 40 percent of adult children inquire about pet-friendly communities for aging parents, the news outlet reports. As a result, about half of the organization's 18,000 programs allow pets.

"Many times we talk to families that have had a loss of a spouse, and they say, 'I can't take the dog away,'" Tami Cumings, senior vice president of the agency, told the news outlet.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, seniors who have pets tend to be in better physical and mental health than those who don't. The study found that seniors with companion animals are more active, cope better with stress and are healthier overall than their petless counterparts, The Daily Commercial reports. Pets also provide older adults with more opportunities for social interaction, offering the potential to protect against social isolation, the news outlet reports.

Pets were one of the reasons Jeanine Young chose Sunrise of Schaumburg near Chicago for her 94-year-old uncle, Merritt Ziolkowski. The resident dog, a golden retriever named Molly, "made him feel more at home," Young told the Chicago Tribune.

She added that the dog was an instant friend for her uncles, and gave him "something to talk about."

"Molly makes me feel better about him being there," Young told the news source.

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