There are so many things to love about animals when you’re an older adult. Not only can animals benefit you physically, but their unending love and endearing demeanor can have a number of positive benefits on your emotional and social health, too. But there are several things to consider before accepting the responsibility of pet ownership later in life.
Below, we discuss six factors older adults should consider before adopting or purchasing an animal:
- Living Arrangement: Where you live makes a big difference in the health and happiness of your pet. “I continue not to recommend getting a new pet in the care center,” says Michele Tarsitano-Amato, board certified registered art therapist, dementia specialist, and director of creative arts therapy at Kendal at Oberlin. “For those in independent living, adoption is a wonderful opportunity.”
- Foster v. Own: Adopting or purchasing an animal is a huge undertaking, especially if you’ve never owned an animal or if it’s been several years since your last animal passed. That’s why Michele suggests bringing animals into your home for a trial first or simply fostering animals. Several Kendal at Oberlin residents provide temporary housing for stray cats through the local CATTS organization, Michele says.
- Where to Find Pets: “Some people do want to go for special breeds, and I can understand that,” says Kendal at Oberlin resident and long-time animal lover Fran. “But if I were to suggest anything, I would say please rescue a dog or cat. They’re waiting to be loved, and you get so much back in return. You can’t measure it.” Local dog rescues, such as PAWS, are always on the lookout for loving owners.
- Physical Ability: It’s no secret some pets are easier to care for than others. To find the right pet for you, be honest about your physical ability. In many cases, this will dictate the type and breed of animal you should pursue. Remember, dogs rely on you entirely, Fran stresses.
- Your Lifestyle: Many older adults spend their retirement years traveling across the globe or migrating south in the colder months. Animals often do not fit nicely into your travel plans. “Right now my husband and I are busy traveling and doing things,” Fran says. “I don’t feel like I want to put my dog in a kennel.”
- Animal Age: Young animals can be overwhelmingly energetic for any household; that’s why Michele suggests looking for older animals. “It would be so lovely if the older adult would be willing to adopt an older pet,” she says. “There are so many older dogs and cats that have lost their owners because their owners have passed. Those animals still need love, and they still need someone to care for them.
Whether you choose to adopt, foster, or simply open your heart to the animals you meet in your neighborhood, the benefits of pet companionship can’t be denied. Animals can do wonders for your physical, emotional, and social health, no matter your age.
Want additional information on the benefits of pet companionship for older adults? Check out this free guide!