Adopting a rescue animal at any age is a good thing, but for people 60 and over, there are certain advantages that come with age. Not only are there special programs designed to make adopting a new companion more affordable, but bringing an animal into your home can also add a lot of joy to your retirement years.
According to AginginPlace.com, seniors benefit from having pets because they relieve stress and anxiety; prevent loneliness by providing companionship; help them feel needed; provide security and create opportunities for socializing with other pet owners, among others.
For seniors concerned with adding a new animal, a great option is to take home a senior pet. Not only are they less energetic (in most cases) than much younger animals, but they still have a lot of love to give.
Adopting as a Senior
“As people reach retirement age, they have more free time, and may be looking for companionship or new activities, and adopting rescue animals opens doors to a whole new community of people,” said Cody Hoellerman, chief community engagement officer, Animal Friends. “We see a lot of the seniors who adopt from us going out to dog parks, sharing stories of their pets on social media, joining different pet groups, and just having a lot of fun with it.” Regardless of age, it’s important to consider the type of lifestyle you have before adopting a pet.
“We don’t discourage someone who is really up there in age from getting a pet, but if they aren’t able to go out on walks, a young, energetic puppy probably isn’t the right animal for them,” said Hoellerman. “A 100-pound dog who pulls hard on a leash isn’t a great companion for someone who doesn’t have a more active lifestyle.”
One of the best ways to find the right animal is to work with adoption counselors at shelters or in foster-based organizations. “Not only do our adoption counselors get to know our animals through behavioral evaluations, but they also get to know the adopters as well,” said Hoellerman. “A person with an active lifestyle might do best with a dog that needs a lot of exercise and enrichment; someone who has children will need an animal that is comfortable about younger members of the family. We want to make sure that everyone—on both the human and animal side—stays safe and happy.”
Animal Friends also partners with Pets for the Elderly Foundation to provide a discount on pet adoptions to those 60 or older. “This program underwrites the cost of adoption for senior adopters, saving them $50 off the donation fee for cats of all ages, and dogs three years or older,” said Hoellerman. “We also have a lot of people in the community who help to underwrite adoption costs for animals, including those who have been here for long periods of time or who have challenges—such as being older—that make it more difficult to find homes with loving families.”
Taking Home a Senior Pet
One of the best things about adopting a senior pet is knowing that you’re giving an animal a wonderful way to live out the rest of its years, according to Denise Pavitt, founder, Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal, the only licensed senior dog rescue organization in western Pennsylvania.
“There are a lot of advantages to adopting a senior dog; in general, they tend to be a little more laid-back and relaxed than younger dogs like puppies,” she said. “And they really do appreciate you; they’ve often been though something difficult, like losing an owner, and they show their gratefulness and appreciation in unbelievable ways.
“On the human side, you’re doing a great deed and something very wonderful in helping an old dog that may not have much of a chance at having a good rest of life,” she added.
Senior Hearts tends to receive their dogs in one of two ways—either from a shelter, or from owners who can no longer care for their pets on their own.
“A lot of shelters, even no-kill shelters, send us their senior dogs because otherwise, they may never make it out the front door,” explained Pavitt, who takes in animals from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. “Last year, 41 percent of our dogs came through our home-to-home program, when, for example, an elderly person passed or had to go into a nursing home and could no longer care for their older pet.
More often than not, these animals won’t be accepted into shelters.”
Now in its sixth year, Senior Hearts has rescued 650 senior dogs and placed 578 in their forever homes.
Pavitt encourages potential adopters to work with foster-based organizations, where there is more opportunity for those caring for the pets to get to know both the animals and their behavioral and medical needs.
“It’s hard to get to know an animal’s behavior in a shelter as it’s a very stressful situation,” she said. “Senior animals also tend to have more medical needs and health issues, so it’s good to have an idea of the medical status of a dog, especially if it hasn’t had good care before.”
On average, Senior Hearts invests roughly $1,200 in medical care for each animal that they take in, enabling the dogs to have a higher quality of life while reducing the financial burden on potential adopters.
While it’s important to note possible health issues, Hoellerman adds that this shouldn’t deter people from taking in senior animals.
“An animal is a lifelong commitment, and even puppies and kittens are going to get older someday,” he said. “While senior pets may develop medical issues, keeping regular veterinary appointments as they age can help you to catch any problems early.
“The biggest thing to remember is that every animal deserves a home, and regardless of when you come into an animal’s life, you become family to them,” he added. “Once they’re in your home, whether they’re 10 weeks old or 10 years old, it doesn’t change the amount of love you have for one another.”