More than half of U.S. households include dogs, and there’s no reason to think that people will lose their affinity for canine companions with age. Owning a dog might even help you live longer, according to the American Heart Association. Unfortunately, there’s a misconception that people cannot bring a dog when they move to a senior living community. 

A 2019 review of scientific literature on pet ownership said, “Seniors with pets may…delay moving into care homes or assisted living, even past the point when they are able to live independently because those homes do not take pets.” Not all senior communities allow pets, but many welcome them — always keeping the health and safety of residents first, of course. Seniors should keep their pets in mind when researching independent living and might even consider adopting a dog later in life, since there are quite a few benefits.

1. Pets Reduce Loneliness. 

A dog is a constant companion, offering unconditional love and acceptance. Most dog owners talk to their dogs, or even sing to them. What’s more, science shows that dogs’ brains react to human voices and facial expressions. The presence of another living creature can provide comfort, especially for seniors experiencing a sense of isolation or adjusting to a new living situation.

2. Dogs Encourage Physical Activity. 

When you walk a dog or play fetch with them, you get exercise, too. Seniors should select a dog breed with an energy level compatible to their own, and use caution with any physical activity. However, a little extra exercise is always a positive thing.

3. Pet Care Shapes Your Routine. 

Sometimes, later in life, it’s nice to have a little structure to your days. Dogs need care, feeding, and walks, all which encourage you to establish a regular routine. Many seniors appreciate this aspect of dog ownership.

4. Caring for a Furry Friend Boosts Happiness.

More than three-quarters of pet owners say their animals reduce their stress, and nearly as many say pets give them a sense of purpose. Pets even help older adults cope with physical pain by directing their attention to positive feelings. 

5. People Often Bond Over Their Love of Animals.

Walking a dog or playing with them outdoors brings you into contact with other dog lovers. In a poll of senior pet owners, 65% said having a pet helps connect them to other people. Pets give you something in common and provide great conversation starters. When you live in a senior community that allows pets, you may find dog walking a great way to meet your neighbors.

6. Dogs Boost Safety.

Dogs can be trained to identify specific medical warning signs, like how to recognize when their owner is having a seizure or blood sugar crash, for example. However, even “regular” dogs protect their owners in other ways. They can alert them to the presence of strangers or scare off would-be intruders.

7. Dogs Make You Feel Amazing.

There is nothing like coming home, whether from a vacation or a 30-minute trip to the store and having somebody who’s as happy to see you as your dog. You’re the center of their universe and they never let you forget it. 

It’s important for each senior to evaluate their own individual situation, choose a dog carefully, and make sure that they’re fully able to manage the responsibilities. It’s also a good idea to have a plan should you need to spend time in a hospital or encounter other challenges where a friend or family member may need to step in.

Aviva’s Pet Policy

At Aviva, we understand that your beloved dog, cat, bird, or fish might play a part in your next adventure, so we strive to set reasonable policies for accommodating them. We permit pets under 30 lbs. in Kobernick Independent Living and Anchin Assisted Living with an approved application, a pet fee, and a few additional requirements. 

A resident must be capable of taking total care of his or her own pet. Management reserves the right to determine if a pet remains appropriate and may require the resident to make other arrangements for their pet. Please contact us for complete details of our pet policy for residents of independent or assisted living.

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