August 21st is National Senior Citizens Day, a day designated to honor our elders, and of course, we at Found Animals extend our love to senior cats and dogs as well. The day reminds us to call our older family members to show our appreciation, to volunteer to help an elderly neighbor, and to soak up the reservoir of wisdom accumulated from years of experience from generations before us.
The day also reminds us that shelters have many senior animals who need homes. Older cats and dogs in shelters have a much smaller chance of getting out alive compared to their sprightly kitten/puppy counterparts. They are often stereotyped to have “ended up there for a reason” whether it’s behavioral or health-related. Potential adopters would rather take home a small kitten and puppy with their whole life ahead of them. Yes, young’uns are adorable, but what’s not to love about a little more white around the muzzle and a mature and mellow disposition?
In fact, older cats and dogs make wonderful companions, especially for senior citizens. That’s why many assisted living facilities and nursing homes now allow “community pets” and even allow tenants to bring their pets – the benefits are plenty and mutual! Having an animal companion is known to lower stress, reduce blood pressure, and decrease the likelihood of depression. Assisted living and nursing homes can be lonely places, and having a dog wag his tail in response to your love and care can really lift your spirits and inspire you to live every day to its fullest. No one knows genuine appreciation like a mature pet; you fulfilled their last hope the day you welcomed them home.
There is a lot of opportunity to save senior pets in our shelters and bring happiness and comfort to those living in assisted living facilities through pet therapy and community pet programs. Some facilities, like Silverado Senior Living, which has centers in six states, make pets an integral part of their therapy, even hiring on staff pet care coordinators to make sure all of the animals are well taken care of.
Senior citizens and senior pets are a good match in energy level and physical needs. Older dogs often suffer from arthritis and can’t keep up with an active owner. Shorter walks and more time lounging and living the good life are “a-okay” by them. Older felines love a quiet home and a warm lap to take their frequent relaxing catnaps. The doting atmosphere of assisted living and nursing homes is perfect for a pet who needs regular administration of medicine and more daily attention. Generally, senior dogs and cats are gentler, calmer, and the biggest benefit of all, already housebroken and trained with basic commands!
Why not take a look at the facilities and programs in your community? Are you or someone you know active with your local animal shelter and/or assisted living facilities?
Consider adopting an older dog or cat for yourself, and reach out to senior citizens around you to let them know that animal companionship is available. Happy National Senior Citizens Day, everyone!
Do you know of any facilities that have a community pet program in place? Share your story in the comments below.