Maybe you lost your dog or cat a while back but have been reluctant to bring a new animal home because of your age. There are lots of pets languishing in shelters and eventually being euthanized for that very same reason—because their hair has turned gray, they have less pep in their step, and they don’t see or hear quite as well as they used to.
But the fact of the matter is that senior pets and humans are really good for each other. The benefits to the pet are obvious: food, shelter and love. However, the value to you is just as profound. Owning a pet not only provides you with companionship, but it can also lower your stress level and blood pressure, decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, and slow bone loss when you’re exercising them regularly. And just like you, senior animals have typically slowed down a bit, making them much easier for you to keep up with.
Quite a few animal rescue organizations have recognized these mutual benefits and are now making it easy for senior pet lovers and animals to enhance each other’s lives. One of the ways that pet groups are facilitating these relationships is by waiving the adoption fee or, at the very least, reducing it for seniors. The SPCA also offers a starter kit to senior adopters, which includes food, water bowls, toys and other supplies. Other organizations pay for pre-adoption exams and sometimes agree to take the animal back should something happen to its owner. In 2013, Purina got in on the act by subsidizing pet adoptions for those 55 and older.
There’s even a nonprofit dedicated to helping seniors adopt companion animals (not just senior animals). By helping pay fees to participating shelters, including pre-adoption veterinary exams and spay/neuter (if part of the adoption fee), Pets for the Elderly has successfully placed close to 57,000 pets with seniors.
In the case of a rescue organization in Ohio, they aren’t waiting around for seniors to come looking for a pet. The group brings the animals—cats on their eighth or ninth life—to seniors in retirement communities. By taking these kitties on tour, they’re not only brightening seniors’ day but also encouraging adoptions, both from the seniors who have the opportunity to cuddle the fur balls and the community at large, who are won over by the heart-warming photos that result from these visits.