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Pets
Pets in Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities know that residents who have pets exhibit less stress than those without them. There are many reasons that contribute to calmer days and evenings, but pets are the biggest aid to stress reduction.

Pets offer "built-in" companionship. What else greets a person at the door with a wagging tail? Dogs and cats either wag their tail or roll around the floor demanding a rub down. That's pure sweetness.

Benefits for Residents and Animals

Benefits of Pets in Assisted Living

Caring for a pet boost wellness and improves residents' quality of life. There are many studies that show incredible health benefits that come with owning a pet.

  • Decreases Stress
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Eases Pain
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Improves Disposition and Mood
  • Social Enhancer
  • Prevent Strokes
  • Monitors Blood Sugar
  • Improves Immunities
  • Increases Activity

In addition to health benefits, the routine of caring for a pet brings structure and purpose to daily life. Maybe you don't always want to get up and move around, but your pet wants you to. That's a good thing!

Adopting a Pet

If you're considering adopting a pet for companionship, look for senior pets over the age of seven. Older pets benefit from the love and attention it receives from an owner. When an older person adopts a pet from the shelter, a pet is ever grateful because they're no longer locked up and their owner is always around. Lucky dog!

PAWS' Seniors a Senior adoption program is all about senior humans rediscovering the joys of having a cat or dog in their lives. The program places senior cats and dogs (typically over 7 years of age) with senior citizens who are 60 years of age or older.

For more information about the program, visit PAWS' Seniors for Seniors to arrange a visit to the animal shelter.

The residential care staff knows that if an older adult recently moved from a home of many years, loneliness and disorientation are the potential concerns. Having a pet around gives constant companionship that is available around the clock. You'll rarely be lonely.

Residential care facilities understand the benefits of having a pet around. That's why 39% of them provide a common pet for all the residents to enjoy. Those most popular in assisted living are cats, dogs, or a bird. (Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey)

Does the facility provide a common pet such as a cat, dog, or bird?

Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Many residential care facilities hand-pick community pets from the local shelters. They select dogs and cats that show friendly and calm temperaments. Older pets are best suited for seniors. Not all residents like animals, so the community's staff monitors interactions. Animal-friendly residents gain encouragement to feed, walk and perform other duties for the pets.

Best of all, some facilities invite residents to bring their own pet when they move in! The caveat: You must care for your own pet and the pet must fit well in the community. Talk it over with the facility's administration to find out if you can bring your furry friend along.

The staff believes it's a good way for new residents to mingle and make new friends. Bringing a pet along, helps new residents feel at home and quickly adapt to the environment.

In a study (2010) by CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities - they discovered 54% of the facilities allow residents to have a personal pet such as a cat, dog, or bird to share their home. .

Are residents ever allowed to have a personal pet such as a cat, dog, or bird tha lives at the facility?
Responses of don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Having a pet helps the resident be active outdoors and stay connected to others. Dogs require outdoor activity and love to take walks. The resident benefits by getting fresh air and exercise too. Being needed ranks high with seniors and taking care of a loved one (a pet) is very satisfying.

Pet Resources for Adoption and Volunteer Services

Pet Adoption Resources
Pet Adoption Resources

For older adults who choose not to own a pet but yearns for animal connection, volunteer at the local shelter. Dogs at the pound need love and attention too. Seniors volunteer at least once weekly to help out and walk dogs for exercise. Call your local ASPCA chapter to find out how.

Purina Pets for Seniors partners with 200 shelters nationwide to provide seniors pet adoptions at a reduced cost.

Pet Finder pair owners with 250,000 adoptable pets from 11,000 animal and rescue groups nationwide.

Anti-Cruelty Society's Pets for the Elderly adoption program helps match seniors with pets, bringing them both love and companionship for life. Clinical studies show that having a pet can prevent loneliness, decrease blood pressure, reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being.

Questions to Ask before Adopting a Pet

  • Have you had a pet before? The best owner is an experienced one.
  • Do you have disabilities? If you are physically disabled, cats are the best animal to adopt. Or consider a small dog that's paper-trained or an indoor bird.
  • Is the pet the right age? Adopt an older pet who require less energy from an owner. Kittens and puppies require a lot of attention and activity. Besides, it may outlive the owner.
  • Is the pet friendly and good-natured? A mellow one is the best pet selection. Always pay attention to the animal's personality.
  • Is the pet healthy? Have the pet examined closely by a vet before adopting it. Some pets carry diseases, so have it checked out thoroughly.
  • Are finances an issue? A pet's care cost is expensive and can run upwards to $900 a year.

Find a New Home for a Pet

When an older adult can no longer care for a pet, it needs a new home.

Adoption: Ask a loved one or friend if they can adopt the pet.

Talk to a Veterinarian: They have resources to help you find a home for the pet. Seek out a no-kill shelter or a non-profit organization that can help you find a new home.

Gentle transition: Give the new owner and pet ample time to bond. Allow the new owner to visit with the pet, take for walks, or care for it in the new home for a day or weekend before ownership begins.

After adoption: Allow the previous owner to have contact with the pet.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.