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Pet Friendly Senior Living: What Questions Should I Ask?

By Sarah Nicolay | 11/15/2022

An older couple playing with their kitten

In the United States, just over half of people ages 50 and older live with at least one pet, and studies have shown that companionship was the most common reason for owning a pet (Mueller et al., 2018; Bibbo et al., 2019). Experiencing this bond with a pet can be a value that shapes an older adult’s choices, preferences and environment as they experience changes associated with aging.

But if a time comes to transition to assisted living, how can you maintain that important bond with your pet? Many assume a transition in living arrangements means that pets will need to be rehomed. If your caregiver or loved ones urge you to do so, you may end up feeling frustrated with them, or even feel like you should refuse to move, even if there are safety concerns that would keep you from comfortably remaining in your home. 

However, there are many housing options for older adults that allow pets. Although each facility has unique pet policies, if pet ownership is an important value to you, there are a few questions you should ask the facilities you, your caregivers and loved ones are considering, based on some more common rules:

  1. Is there a one-time or monthly pet fee? How much does it cost?
  2. Are there breed restrictions or size limits?
  3. Is there a limit to the number of pets?
  4. Are there any specific animals that aren’t allowed?
  5. What vaccinations are required?
  6. What happens if I or my caregiver gets sick or can no longer care for my pet?
  7. Is there a well-lit area where dogs can be walked or exercised?
  8. Are there veterinary clinics or pet grooming services offered by the facility, or nearby? Does the facility provide transportation to these services? 
  9. Does the facility provide other services? (i.e., dog walking, litter box cleaning, feeding, group activities, or pet therapies)

(Pet Friendly Senior Living, 2022)

When selecting and touring a new facility, consider what services you’ll need to maintain pet ownership moving forward. Speak with the facility and find out if your needs can be met. Knowing the policies ahead of time and ensuring that your needs can be met can help you avoid situations in the future like fines or even eviction. Including pet ownership in your discussions about care values and preferences can help to improve your life as a pet owner. Receiving support in pet ownership can enable you to continue living with a valued companion and make choices that promote healthy aging as the years go by.

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