Joan’s Journey: Why Seniors Should Reconsider Pet Ownership

Welcome Joan’s Journeyers. As a devoted pet owner, I know personally that pets offer unconditional love, help ease loneliness and give owners a sense of belonging. I lived with and loved domestic animals and birds throughout my life. When dogs and cats were forbidden in my apartment complexes, I substituted one or two sweet singing parakeets. My experiences with pets are so positive that until I moved to senior housing at Holiday Villa East in Santa Monica, I thought that seniors who desired to be pet owners should be so.

Yet living in a senior community for the past 18 months has drastically changed my mind, and I have arrived at a controversial and potentially upsetting opinion—not all seniors should bring their beloved pets when joining a senior living community or adopt new pets to replace animals who pass away.

Prior to leaving Baltimore, I made the painful decision to re-home my precious rescue cat Mia, who was my housemate and best feline friend for seven years. Tears are in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I recall the events leading to this toughest of decisions. Furthermore, I have witnessed the hurt, dismay and loss that is experienced by community residents who have given up their pets.

In my next Joan’s Journey, I will explain why I left Mia in Baltimore and why a careful consideration to re-home – not relocate – one’s pet is needed. In addition, anecdotes of animal neglect by seniors who truly love their pets, but are unable to adequately meet their basic needs, reinforce the justification to limit pet ownership in senior communities.

I am not advocating pet-less lives in senior communities. In fact, after six months of settling into senior living, I adopted a fluffy, sweet, fun, four-month-old feline princess, Heather, who is being raised to embrace the new lifestyle I lead. Join me in the next Joan’s Journey as we explore suggested criteria for successful pet ownership at senior living.

Do you or a senior in your life own a pet? What responsibilities does pet ownership entail when you’re a senior? and I invite your comments on our Facebook Web site, on Twitter, and in the Comments section of Joan’s Journey. Until the next post, enjoy your journey day by day.

Joan London is a freelance medical and social service writer who specializes in topics on aging. London moved from Maryland to California to enjoy life in a senior living community and enhance her quality of life by living closer to her children and grandchildren.

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