It is becoming more common place as hundreds of assisted living / independent living and memory facilities across the U.S. allow their client’s pets to come live with them. The number of people seeking facilities that allow pets for their aging family members has grown substantially.
“As many as 40 percent of people ask about pets when calling A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior living referral service”, said Tami Cumings, its senior vice president. “When the service was founded 12 years ago, pets were seldom considered when it came time for older people to enter rest homes or skilled nursing homes”
“Living centers usually prefer smaller pets and put the limit at two. Not all pets are dogs and cats either”, Cumings said. “They get a lot of calls about birds and fish, too”. There are still many facilites for our aging population that do not allow pets so for those who don’t want to be around animals. But some living centers allow a wide variety of pets.
“At the Silverado Senior Living center in Encinitas, residents have miniature horses and for several months every year, a very young kangaroo”, said Steve Winner, co-founder and chief of culture for the company’s 23 centers in six states, including Illinois and Texas. ”They’ve had a pot-bellied pig, chinchillas, guinea pigs and even a llama until he got too big”, said Winner, who estimated that 20 percent of their new residents move in with pets.
Lori Kogan, a professor of veterinary medicine at Colorado State University, founded a prototype program called Pets Forever, a Colorado State class where students earn credits while helping elderly and disabled pet owners care for their animals.
As we get older, many of the things we take for granted like friends, mobility, our jobs begin to go away and pets can really become a much more important part of our daily life. “So pets become increasingly important,” Kogan said. “The relationship between a person and a pet may be the only thing an older person has left”, she said. “Clients will often say their pets are the reason they try to continue living,” Kogan said. “These pets really give them meaning and value in life, a purpose for getting up in the morning.”