Pets and Seniors

Pets and Seniors

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As people age they may require more care from others. However, it can give a person’s life meaning to care for others too. Often a pet can bring new meaning to a person’s life as their friend and family dynamics change when living arrangements and other circumstances change.

Pets for the Elderly

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation is a non-profit created just to connect seniors with lovable pets. Since opening in 2002, the organization has helped successfully place 57,000 companion animals with seniors around the country. The foundation helps to pay adoption fees at participating shelters for senior citizens (age 60 and over) who adopt a cat or dog.

Pets can offer unconditional love and affection which can help with feelings of loneliness experienced by many elderly people.

Susan Kurowski, Executive Director of the Pets for the Elderly Foundation, has tips for anyone considering a pet—for themselves or an elderly loved one:

  1. In my opinion, an adopted pet should not be gifted to a senior; the senior should be an active participant in the choice.  Most times, there is a bonding that occurs during pet adoption. 
  2. The senior adopter must consider their living conditions – if they are in a condo or senior housing, they must be aware of any covenants or restrictions. 
  3. The senior must be aware of their ability to walk a dog, bend over to clean and fill food and water dishes, and other possible physical limitations.
  4. Of course, finances are also a consideration – can you maintain food, vet visits, etc.?

She adds, “None of this is to say that seniors are not capable of keeping up by any means – just a general awareness [of pet ownership].”

You Had Me at ‘Woof!’

Matchmaking has its sweet spots and Ms. Kurowski has had her heart melt over and over as she sees and hears of the life changing magic of people adopting a new pet.

“My favorite response ever, from one adopter was, “Thank you for helping me adopt ‘Maggie.’  I am 72 years old, and she has brought joy and laughter, and taught me to play again,” she says.  “Most adopters make a statement in that vein and many mention how happy they are to have a little buddy.”

And it’s not just the individual adopter who is pleased, but also their loved ones who observe the newfound delight.

“From their family members we often hear how their loved one seems to have a renewed purpose, is taking better care of themselves, or is generally happier or feeling safer,” Ms. Kurkowski shares.

Visit the “participating shelters” page of the Pets for the Elderly Foundation website to see if there is a place in your area to go meet a new furry friend.  

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