Aging and Pets

In Ben Stein’s book, How to Ruin Your Life, he lists not having pets as an excellent way to make life less enjoyable. Whether dogs, cats, fish or iguanas; having a pet brings joy, companionship, routine and much more into anyone’s life. That doesn’t diminish with age; we never outgrow the pleasure of pets.
Few things can be brought forward from our youth throughout our lives like playing catch with a dog or getting a deep, satisfying purr from a cat. Pets can transport us back through time in a miraculous way. They may not keep us young, but they enable us to renew our connections with youth. And they do keep us more active and involved.
Studies have established the healthful benefit of pets so effectively, it is largely taken as fact. Many hospitals, convalescent homes or continuing care facilities partner with animal shelters to provide for “patting visits”. These opportunities are highly valued by patients and residences of all ages.
I frequently I meet with older pet owners whose purpose in hanging onto their homes is the fear a beloved pet won’t be allowed at the assisted living or retirement community. Small pets might be allowed, but no longer have the big yard to play in. “I’ll go after Fluffy does, but in the meantime, we are both staying put,” is something I’ve heard more than once
Often in these situations, the adult children take Mom or Dad’s concern as frivolous and exasperating. Junior has already made plans, the move is nearly set, why can’t Dad just get along with the program? The dog is 12 now, so how much longer can he last anyway?
Maybe the kids perceive the pet to be a burden. There are food costs and vet bills. The animal sheds and there is hair all over the house. Whatever the reason, things are seen as simpler without the pet. But the important question in our lives is never what is easiest, it is what is best. What offers us the fullest quality of life?
An issue which is often overlooked is care of a pet should the owner be become indisposed. Those on whom we rely need to know how to care for our pets our absence. What are the dislikes and preferences in foods or toys? Routines and schedules can be very important with older pets. If necessary, is there a certain person we would like the animal to go to? If we don’t communicate these things, how will anyone know them?
Pets enrich our lives and our health at any age. A little thought, planning, and perhaps some cooperation, make that sustainable.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident. A little furry companionship doesn’t hurt either.

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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.

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