Are Pets Allowed in Retirement Homes?

Seniors Guide - 7/13/2021

Moving to a senior living community will likely be a big change for your loved one, as they are living in a different location or geographical area and perhaps downsizing. One additional change that may seem necessary is rehoming your aging loved one’s pet. But will that really be necessary?

Many active retirement communities actually do allow residents to have pets, as long as the pet owner is able to reliably care for the pet. They typically have basic rules, such as a limit on the number of pets, proof of required shots and vaccinations; and species, breed, or size regulations. Additionally, the pet owner must be responsible for any damage or harm done by their pet.

The Benefits of Pets Allowed in Retirement Homes

Pets are actually beneficial to seniors in many ways, so it makes sense that retirement communities are allowing them.

  1. Pets make people happy! Studies have shown that pets can increase our body’s level of serotonin, which makes us feel good. Caring for a pet is also a great way to stave off loneliness, especially for a senior who has recently lost a partner or companion. Caring for a pet can be a great way of redirecting that nurturing energy.

  • Pets have been proven to lower anxiety, stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels of their owners.

  • Pets frequently need to be walked – both for exercise, and for regular restroom breaks. Given that pets must walk or go outside for either activity, this is a great way to keep a senior active and moving. Regular movement and exercise can help seniors to stay mobile and burn calories.

When shopping for a pet for a senior loved one, be sure to choose a pet that is manageable for its owner without any assistance. The owner will likely have to pick it up at times, bathe and groom it, hold it securely while walking on a leash, clean up waste, and take it for medical visits, nail trims, etc. A lighter, smaller, and more docile breed may be a better choice for an aging loved one.

Things to Consider When Bringing a Pet

If taking a pet is a factor for your senior loved one when moving into a retirement community, be sure to reach out to the communities they are interested in and ask for details before deciding if that location is a good fit. Also, ask questions such as:

  • Are there additional pet deposits of monthly fees?

  • What health history or proof of vaccination is required?

  • Is there a dedicated green space for pet exercise, or are level, accessible walking trails available?

If your senior loved one is unable to complete all the daily tasks required to care for a pet, they may benefit from a retirement community that offers pet therapy, where animals (frequently dogs or cats) are brought in to interact with seniors. There are also facilities that have a pet on-site that all residents have access to.

If your desired community accepts pets, get ready to move Fido in. Be sure the animal is housebroken, that there are no behavior, barking, or aggression issues, and that any personal liability coverage is in place in the case that the pet does damage to someone’s property or bodily harm to another resident. Additionally, if moving your senior loved one into a community with a pet, talk to them about their plans for their pet if something were to happen to them, to be sure their wishes are able to be honored.

For many of us, our animals are like members of our family. Transitioning into a different space can be difficult enough without giving up our four-legged loved one. Fortunately, that may not be necessary for pets allowed in retirement homes!

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.