June 22, 2018
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Senior Beat

By Carol Higgins Taylor, Eastern Area Agency on Aging

A furry friend can enhance a senior’s life

If you are thinking about bringing an animal into your life, now is a great time. Let’s face it, there is nothing like a soft purr or a wagging tail to brighten up even the worst day. The Bangor Humane Society has a great idea for bringing seniors and furry companions together to the benefit of both.

“We want to help facilitate the bond of the many pets in our care with the many seniors who could benefit from a companion, so we are offering a 50 percent discount on the adoption fee to make it more affordable for people 65 and older,” said Stacey Coventry, public relations manager. “So many seniors live alone, far away from relatives, or are grieving the loss of a spouse or friend, and we believe pet companionship is just as therapeutic for the human soul as for the pet’s soul.”

An animal is a wonderful solution for a senior who may struggle with loneliness. Much research has been conducted showing that having pets definitely increases the quality of life and emotional health of seniors. In fact, just petting an animal can reduce their loneliness, while the unconditional love and commitment companion animals give owners can be like therapy.

“Pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and be the encouragement necessary to get some exercise,” said Coventry. “Pets give us a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of purpose due to being responsible to another individual. Pets have shown to be especially helpful in easing the pain and depression associated with many health problems because of their innate ability to positively affect our outlook on life.”

Animals also can be an instant conversation starter. Just ask animal lovers about their pets and brace yourself for stories and an album of pictures of the antics performed by the “incredibly smart” cat or dog.

“Really, what better way to invite social interaction than with a cute cat or dog?” asked Coventry.

Not a cat person? Think about dogs — and think about breed and age first. Talk to shelter staff about your needs and lifestyle. If you are unsteady on your feet or unable to walk any distance, you won’t want a large dog that has lots of energy. Perhaps an older, small dog that would be content to sit on the couch and be petted would be the perfect new friend.

While it’s documented that companion animals help people live longer and healthier, it’s important to make arrangements for the animal should you become incapacitated and no longer able to care for it. Inform relatives and friends of your wishes.

If you are considering a pet for an elderly loved one, make sure the senior really wants a pet. While a surprise party may be fun, a surprise pet is not. It is unfair to the senior and the animal.

“We hope to increase access to our adoptions by offering a senior discount, thus increasing the number of pets who find loving, new homes and increasing the number of seniors who will experience the joy of bringing an animal into their lives,” said Coventry.

So, if you are looking for a new little friend, give BHS or your local shelter a call. Let’s face it — a house without at least a couple of cats is, well, just a house. Adopt a pet and make your house a home.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, email info@eaaa.org or http://www. EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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