By Cindy Erwin, B.S.

Media Marketing Specialist

VNA Plus Home Care & Hospice

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In the world of cats and dogs, it turns out that you’re never too old to be man’s best friend! Think ahead, November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, designed to spotlight older animals that are often passed over at shelters in favor of puppies and kittens, but why wait?! Matching senior pets with senior humans can be rewarding for both for many reasons:

  • They fill an empty nest. If you are past the stage of raising your own children, a senior pet gives you the chance to love and nurture another being again. Plus, they’re usually more appreciative of the attention than your teenagers were!
  • You can turn back the clock for the pet and for yourself. People are often hesitant to adopt a senior animal for fear of serious health problems (and the related expense of caring for them) or because the animal may not live long. However, with the right diet, healthy snacks, regular exercise and lots of love, even an older animal can become healthier and more vibrant as it ages (it works well for humans, too!).
  • You talk, they listen. Senior dogs that have been part of a home frequently understand basic commands. Plus, because they are generally calmer and wiser in the ways of humans, they make better listeners. (Cats may not appear to listen to anyone at any age, but they do!)
  • They can learn new tricks. People may not have many expectations of an older animal — or may assume that they are “set in their ways,” much like some humans — but major life changes help older animals become more adaptable and eager to make friends, and they also fit into the routine of a new household.
  • They know when they’ve got it good. Most senior animals never expected to be displaced or separated from their previous owners. So when they find a new loving home, their appreciation and loyalty know no bounds.

Of course, pets of any age can give seniors a reason to get up in the morning, get out of the house, and get excited about life. The advantage a senior pet offers is that their quieter, slower pace is often more suited to the elder’s lifestyle. In addition, they don’t generally chew, scratch, eat or jump on things they shouldn’t be disturbing.

Before adopting any pet, it’s important to discuss with shelter or rescue personnel any special needs the animal may have along with preferences and concerns you have. It may even be possible to foster an animal for a period of time to ensure a good match before committing to adoption. Remember that making a difference in an animal’s golden years can make a positive difference in your own!

Cindy Erwin is a member of the planning committee for the Mid-America Institute on Aging, co-sponsored by the University of Southern Indiana and SWIRCA & More. More information is at http://health.usi.edu/chaw/default.asp

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