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55+ Are Finding Pet Love – More Aging Adults Are Adopting Pets

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55+ Are Finding Pet Love – More Aging Adults Are Adopting Pets

According to the ASPCA, over 6 million dogs and cats enter shelters every year. While that number is on the decline, it still indicates that there are too many furry friends looking for forever homes. Of the 6 million animals in shelters, close to 1 million do not find homes and do not get the chance to live their best lives, facing euthanization. While even typing that word makes our stomachs turn, it took those before us talking about it to make a difference and we hope to do the same. In this article we will explore the benefits of aging adults adopting pets, volunteering time at a local shelter and fostering a pet.

In a recent AARP article, Pet Ownership May Delay Cognitive Decline in Older Adults, they found the science behind the benefits of pet ownership in older adults. Studies show that pets help to de-stress and aid in helping people follow a more health lifestyle. The article quotes caregiver Lori Maran, 60 as saying, “I definitely think having a pet makes a difference, anything that helps stimulate the brain is good — plus all the love you’re giving to that animal.”

As the saying goes, “age is just a number,” and the number of pets that are finding a home with those 55 and over is growing by leaps and bounds. Pets not only make terrific companions for those who live alone or older couples on the go, they provide love, encourage physical activity, and improve mental well-being. It’s no wonder that older adults are making the choice to invite a furry friend into their home.

To learn more here is a great study conducted by University of Michigan and sponsored by AARP, How Pets Contribute to Aging. The study points out that pets lend a hand in taking minds off pain, reduce stress and provide a sense of purpose. Often just getting out of bed can be a hurdle for those of us who are retired and have no reason to rise and shine and a pet is a terrific alarm clock. While studies are being done, the bottom line is that aging adults are adopting pets and improving their lives.

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Pet Adoption for 55+ – choosing the right pet

If you are considering bring a furry friend into your home, it is important to decide the right pet for you. The choice often begins with evaluating where you live or plan to live in the near future. Most 55+ communities welcome pets of all shapes and sizes and you will often find the streets bustling with pets and people walking about, while apartment and assisted living housing limit the pet’s size and weight. Tailoring your pet choice to your living environment is the first step towards a harmonious pet-owner relationship.

Next you will want to assess the fitness requirements. Many breeds don’t just like long walks but require the exercise and they do not thrive without it. If you are looking for a motivator to take daily walks, consider a breed that looks forward to a nice stroll around the block or sprints to the door for a brisker jaunt.

Size should be taken into account next. While most puppies are cute and cuddly, some grow into their paws and reach weights exceeding 100 pounds, while others grow a few pounds and never grow again. While larger dogs are often a blessing, they can be a handful when you need to be in control. Teacup pups are also wonderful pet choices, but they can get tangled up under toe and actually become a fall hazard. If you are eyeing a kitty, their sizes are relatively similar, but there are a few cat breeds that can get quite large.

While every pet is priceless, their cost comes into play when making a pet choice. Many breeds and trendy mixed breeds are quite costly, while some rescue pets are free to the right owner. The cost however does not end with the adoption, there are grooming costs, health care costs and boarding costs that should also be considered. Once you narrow down your pet choices you can do the research to better understand the cost of their ongoing care so you know what you are in for and can plan that into your monthly and yearly budget.

A temperament check is also an important part of the process. Some breeds are easy going, while others do much better with one owner and prefer few new faces. Know the breed or breed mix your rescue represents to have an understanding of their personality. Don’t forget to do a bark check, some pups are prone to bark, while others just do not. Tight spaces can make excessive barking difficult for you and for those around you. No two pets are identical, but you can learn a lot by spending time with them before the adoption. Embrace the quiet moments and play time to get a handle on how they handle you and vice versa.

These factors are all so important as things change, such as your residence, your health, and the people you reside with. Having a pet can truly be a blessing during these changes, having someone else to tackle the hurdles and help to calm the situation.

While pups have many factors to consider, cats on the other hand tend to handle their own fitness and are adaptable to being 100% indoor or both indoor and out. Another benefit of choosing to adopt a cat is that many assisted living locations allow then, while most are not able to accommodate dogs. Cats are more self-sufficient if you spend time away from your home, don’t require long walks and can even stay by themselves if you are away for the night. It is however a myth that cats would prefer to be alone. They bond with their owners, miss them when they are gone and don’t like to be alone for long stretches of time.

There are now so many helpful gadgets for helping with indoor pets such as automatic litter boxes, gravity fed food and water bowls and pet doors that activate with a smart collar. These are very helpful if you would like a pet but are not sure you are up for what it takes on a daily basis to care for them. Also consider requesting help from friends and neighbors to fill their food and water, set up the automatic door and caring for the litter box.

Shelter Volunteering for 55+ – spreading the love

For those who live in residences that do not allow pets or the accommodations are not fit, volunteering at a local shelter is a terrific alternative. Shelter pets come from all walks of life and are longing for even a bit of attention. Your attention will not only create great movements for both you and your new pals, but you are helping to prepare them for their forever home. The happier they are around others, the more likely they are to find a new home.

Shelter volunteering can be as simple as stopping to say hi to all the 4-legged guests or a much bigger investment with dog walks, assistance with grooming or helping at dinner time. While most shelters have a few paid team members, most would not run as well as they do without the help of the community and volunteers.

Whether you have a pet at home or not, volunteering is a great activity for those who are retired, have a little free time on their hand or are looking for a weekend activity. You may also offer to help at the next ‘gotcha day’ event or adoption rally and share your relationships with potential new families to help them find the right pairing.

Pet Fostering for 55+ – paying it forward

Shelters across the country are at capacity and many cities do not offer long-term shelter care and rely on the help of volunteers to foster pets of all ages, sizes and types. Traditional pet fostering probably comes to mind, caring for a litter of puppies, or taking in a stray cat for a few weeks, but there are pet fosterers who care for baby raccoons, squirrels, and rabbits. While the care for exotic animals or training to prepare them to go back into the wild, requires some training, it is a wonderful way to give back when animals are abandoned by their mother, left by unkind individuals or simply find themselves in the wrong place and at the right time.

Most fostering opportunities are short-term and a great option for older adults who love to travel, spend time in different home locations or are simply not up for the task full-time. You can also be of great assistance in helping your foster animals to find a new home by taking great photos and videos, posting on social media, and participating in pet adoption in the community.

Many aging pets are dropped off at shelters because their owners are not able to care for them or they decide a younger pet is better for their family. Older pets deserve the same love and attention and are perfect for fostering and possibly adopting. When you adopt an older pet you are literally saving and extending their lives.

Age shouldn’t be a barricade to your passion for animals. Instead, let it be a gateway to a range of rewarding possibilities! Whether you choose to adopt, foster, or volunteer, you’re not just showering affection on a furry friend, you’re also casting ripples of positivity throughout your community. The beauty of it is, you’ll be sharing this journey with other animal enthusiasts from all walks of life, broadening your circle and enriching your own experience. So, leap in with open arms, and let your love of animals illuminate the twilight years with joy and companionship.

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