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Pets increasingly common in senior housing

Nursing homes and senior-living residences are rewriting their old-fashioned rules and increasingly allowing pets to move in, USA Today reported today.

Dogs, cats and rabbits — even a kangaroo —  are roaming the halls, lounging on sofas and sharing rooms at a growing number of retirement homes across the country, and in the process making them more loving places.

Some have been adopted as communal pets, rescued from shelters to live in a facility full time; others are animals that residents brought with them.

“Animals are all-accepting. They don’t care about whatever issues a person might have,” said Noralyn Snow, administrator at the Silverado Senior Living Aspen Park Community in Salt Lake City, where seven dogs, six cats, 40 birds and a baby kangaroo live with 100 memory-impaired residents. “And having pets around adds excitement and spontaneity.

“People grow up with animals, have had them all their lives, and this is their home now, so why wouldn’t they have pets here?” says Helene King, communication coordinator for Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore, one of 300 facilities worldwide operating under the “Eden Alternative” philosophy, which integrates animals, plants and contact with children into daily routines to keep the elderly engaged. “It makes such a big difference in their lives.”

Traditionally, most administrators frowned upon animals living in residences for the elderly, citing allergies, and liability cocerns related to residents getting knocked down, bitten or scratched.

USA Today concludes there have been few problems. “We just haven’t experienced a downside,” King says.


Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time September 3, 2008 at 12:35 am

My mother, who is 85, has severe dementia brought about by a brain injury about five years ago. She has loved animals all her life, though she would have presented herself as a dog person.

Nevertheless, Sasha, a blue Persian cat, has become Mom’s treasured friend and confidante in the private assisted-living home where they both reside. Sasha waits on the porch each afternoon for Mom to return from her adult day program. She has an uncanny sense of what time that will be. She spends a fair amount of time each evening curled up on the arm of Mom’s chair or lounging across the back. At bedtime, she curls up somewhere on the bed and rests there until Mom is entirely asleep–sometimes staying all night. The two of them have a wonderfully uncomplicated, deeply caring relationship in which no words are needed. I’m so thankful for Sasha. She exemplifies what I’ve always believed–that our animals make us more human.

(There is also a parakeet in the home. He (or she) is called Chirpy and talks quietly but incessantly. Half the fun of a visit to Mom is to watch her watching Sasha who is watching Chirpy.

Comment from AlisaBS
Time September 3, 2008 at 9:23 am

Montgomery County, progressive place that it is, even has a provision in the state landlord-tenant law that says a landlord can’t prevent an elderly person (60 or older) from keeping a pet unless it’s specifically put in writing at the time the person moves in.

Too bad I don’t have the same protection from my husband saying no pets.