Having a pet by your side can make the move to a senior living community more emotionally secure. Yet does this type of companion have a place in senior living?

Life is full of changes, but some of the most memorable changes people face revolve around their home. As children, the move out of mom and dad's to a college dorm is an exciting life moment. Buying your first home represents another monumental change. Perhaps the biggest one for most Americans is the transition from independent living to senior or assisted living, even if that assisted living is nearby. When this change comes about many people have lived independently in their own home for decades, so this adjustment comes with challenges. Especially if a pet is involved. 

The thought of leaving behind a beloved four-legged, winged, or gilled companion can be unbearable. Good news many assisted living communities allow residents to bring their pets with them! The number of pet-friendly senior living communities is on the rise as these community realize the value of allowing residents to bring their close companions with them.

Pet Ownership Statistics

The move to allow pets in senior living communities is a smart one. Not only does it smooth the transition for seniors leaving their home for a new assisted living community, but it also keeps up with the reality of pet ownership in America. According to the ASPCA:

  • 78 million dogs are owned by US citizens
  • 85 million cats are owned by US citizens
  • 44% of all American households have a dog
  • 35% of all American households have a cat

There's no sense in forcing seniors to give up a valued companion as part of the move to an assisted living community. In fact, bringing a pet not only helps to smooth the transition from living at home to living in a community setting, it actually has health benefits for seniors. This is the primary reason many senior living communities are now pet-friendly.

Benefits of Pets in Assisted Living Communities

Whether your pet is a service animal that provides valuable assistance or simply a beloved member of the family, studies have found that pet-friendly senior living communities are doing more than just easing the move for seniors. The National Institutes of Health has conducted studies that identified both psychosocial and physiological benefits resulting from the senior-pet relationship.

Generally speaking, seniors who bring a dog or cat to their assisted living facility are healthier, socially and emotionally happier, and live longer. Pets provide seniors with a chance to easily socialize with other residents in their community, enable them to maintain a sense of purpose in daily life, and give them a reason to remain active each day. Recognized benefits of pet ownership, each of which is vital to seniors in assisted living communities, include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased learning
  • Reduced depression
  • Less loneliness
  • Mental stimulation
  • Better self-esteem

The mere presence of a dog or cat at a pet-friendly assisted living facility can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides as seniors remain active walking their pets. Those with memory impairment have been shown to remain in higher spirits with their pet around, and studies have shown that seniors with a pet have a higher survival rate after a heart attack.

The Changing Landscape of Pet-Friendly Assisted Living

Given all the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of pet-friendly assisted living, it makes sense that senior living communities across the country are promoting pet-friendly environments for residents. A 2010 study by the CDC of residential care facilities found that 54% allow residents to have a dog, cat, or bird with them in their residence.

Some communities are going one step further. There are assisted living facilities that believe deeply in the various benefits of pet-friendly assisted living; so much so that these facilities allow both individual pets and have community pets. In this case, assisted living communities have a number of community dogs available for social interaction with residents and participation in therapy courses to help those who don't have their own pet realize the benefits of that special human-pet relationship.

If you're looking for a senior living community for yourself or a loved one, rest assured you'll find plenty of assisted living communities that are pet-friendly. Moving to a senior living community doesn't have to mean giving up your four-legged friends anymore!

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