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Senior Living: Life, Love & Companionship

05/02/2017 04:15PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez

          For the elderly, pets can be a welcome companion. Scientifically, pets reduce stress, lower blood pressure, prevent loneliness and improve the overall health and well-being of humans they are with. But, if you think this love only goes one way, think again. Senior pets are also searching for companions.


Finding love for senior pets

            Jackie Stickley, Executive Director at Fayetteville Animal Protection Society (FAPS), certainly has a soft spot in her heart for senior pets. Even with her own two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Buddy and Quincey, Stickley says, “After mine, I will foster seniors forever.” And she means senior pets.

            There are a few reasons why she wants to open up a space in her own life for cats and dogs that aren’t kittens and puppies anymore. “It’s not fair to them to pass before they’re loved. They’ve done nothing but love their whole life. Oftentimes the reason they’re [at FAPS] is because of no fault of their own.”

            She explains most reasons why people may surrender their senior pets. It can be from the arrival of a new baby, to a move on the horizon or, heartbreakingly, because the family has adopted a new and younger animal.

            Senior pets are the most euthanized in shelters, Stickley says, but these animals can be wonderful companions for families looking for a pet or even seniors who may be on the lookout for a companion of their own.

            While seniors may be slightly less mobile, this quality doesn’t need to affect their willingness to give a pet a try.

            “We’ve had people in the past who come in and say, ‘My father passed and my mother is lonely. We’re looking for a smaller dog that can cuddle.’ And we were able to find that perfect match.”

            On FAPS’s Facebook page, Tiffany Sessoms left a glowing review of a match well-made. “FAPS made it possible for us to find my grandma who is in her 70s and in a wheelchair the perfect match for a doggie companion. He has uplifted her soul and I am thankful they are here to do what they are doing in Cumberland County. Thank you guys for saving the dog that’s bringing light to my grandmother’s life and spirit.”


Matching seniors together

            “In general, there’s a positive benefit in having an animal,” Stickley adds. “There have been multiples studies that show pets can lower your blood pressure.”

            Stickley goes on to demonstrate other benefits in having an older pet. “Senior animals have less energy, so you’re less likely to be knocked over. You’re more likely to have an animal that is already house trained and trained, in general.”

            Matching seniors with senior pets seems like a natural fit. What’s the consideration for senior pets? These are animals that are over seven years old. For a cat, that’s not quite a senior age, since some cats can live to be 20, but for a Great Dane, seven years old is more than middle aged. At FAPS, Stickley boasts about the Seniors for Seniors program, which is half off the adoption cost for anyone over 60 years old. Adoption costs are $80 for dogs and $45 for cats.

            Stickley says most people adopting pets are looking for puppies and kittens, but she counters, “Oftentimes some really great dogs and cats get overlooked.”

            Would she go for a puppy?

            “You could not pay me to take a puppy. Honest to goodness. I think senior pets know when you’re adopting them. They appreciate it.”


Bring your pup to work day

            Adopting a pet and taking one home isn’t the only option. Think about other ways you might involve seniors with animals. Kathryn McCarthy, one of the owners of Home Instead Senior Care in Fayetteville brings her dog, Elvis, in with her to work. It’s clear Elvis is well-known and brings in a considerable amount of unexpected joy.

            “Having Elvis in the office,” McCarthy detailed, “brings joy to our caregivers and clients alike. He especially likes getting attention from our clients. He always puts a smile on their face.”

            When Elvis isn’t around, he’s missed.

            “People notice when Elvis is not in the office,” she added. Often they’ll inquire wondering when Elvis will return. “He has become a permanent fixture,” she said.

            From sweet pups to kind kittens, in what ways could you bring more animals into the lives of the seniors who you love?

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