Senior living centers across US accept more pets

May 15, 2012, 8:01 PM

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Shirlee and Nathan “Nick” Horowitz faced one serious health crisis after another before their doctor said they had to move into an assisted living center. They had only one condition _ they weren’t going anywhere without their dog.

Hundreds of retirement communities across the country now allow seniors to live with their pets and more and more keep house pets that provide the benefits without the responsibility.

As many as 40 percent of people ask about pets when calling A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior living referral service, said Tami Cumings, its senior vice president.

When the service was founded 12 years ago, pets were seldom considered when it came time for older people to enter rest homes or skilled nursing homes, Cumings said.

Then came the boom in independent living centers, assisted living complexes and memory centers for Alzheimer’s patients. At the same time, some people have latched on to studies that show pets can help their owners’ health physically and psychologically, said Lori Kogan, a professor of veterinary medicine at Colorado State University.

Shirlee Horowitz and her husband chose the Regency Grand in West Covina, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. Meals are provided, as is housekeeping and transportation. Medication management and help with dressing and bathing can be arranged. But most of all, their collie Barney was welcome.

“I worried more about him because he had a big yard before,” said Shirlee Horowitz, 77. “But he has adjusted to this better than we have.”

Barney’s friendliness has made it easier for the couple to meet their neighbors, and his walks have helped them get to know the complex.

Living centers usually prefer smaller pets and put the limit at two. Not all pets are dogs and cats either, Cumings said. They get a lot of calls about birds and fish, too.

As much as 30 percent of the residents at the Regency Grand have pets at any one time, said Leah Hynes, Regency Grand’s marketing associate. Seldom do the elderly move in with puppies or kittens, she said. Most of the time, their animals are older, too.

One of the residents lost her husband of many decades. She wanted a pet so Hynes helped her choose a cat. They named it Annie and had the cat spayed, vaccinated and microchipped.

“It was like bringing a new baby home. She had the apartment set up and couldn’t wait to have the companionship and someone to care for again,” she said.

Residents who don’t have pets of their own are encouraged to share Alley, the office cat. At the center’s memory care center, a dog, a cat and two bunnies live with a couple of parakeets and a lot of fish.

Pet-friendly living centers are still in the minority, so people who don’t like animals will easily find centers that say “No Pets Allowed.”

But some living centers are cultivating small menageries.

At the Silverado Senior Living center in Encinitas, 25 miles north of San Diego, residents have miniature horses and for several months every year, a very young kangaroo, said Steve Winner, co-founder and chief of culture for the company’s 23 centers in six states, including Illinois and Texas.

They’ve had a pot-bellied pig, chinchillas, guinea pigs and even a llama until he got too big, said Winner, who estimated that 20 percent of their new residents move in with pets.

When it’s time to walk the dogs, a staff member might play “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men as a signal that it’s time to put leashes on the dogs.

Kogan founded a prototype program called Pets Forever, a Colorado State class where students earn credits while helping elderly and disabled pet owners care for their animals.

As people grow old, they lose relatives and friends, maybe some of their mobility, their jobs and homes. “So pets become increasingly important,” Kogan said. The relationship between a person and a pet may be the only thing an older person has left, she said.

“Clients will often say their pets are the reason they try to continue living,” she said. “These pets really give them meaning and value in life, a purpose for getting up in the morning.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

This combination of photos shows actor Johnny Depp testifying at the Fairfax County Circuit Court i...
Associated Press

Judge makes jury’s $10.3M award official in Depp-Heard trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The judge in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial made a jury’s award official Friday with a written order for Heard to pay Depp $10.35 million for damaging his reputation by describing herself as a domestic abuse victim in an op-ed piece she wrote. Judge Penney Azcarate entered a judgment order […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to reporters on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, amid the fallout...
Associated Press

After abortion ruling, critics renew blasts at Sen. Collins

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Sen. Susan Collins was blasted Friday for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as opponents targeted her votes to confirm two justices to the Supreme Court who were in the majority opinion allowing states to ban abortion. Critics of the Maine senator haven’t forgotten the key role she played in confirming […]
15 hours ago
Emergency personnel look over the sight of a  helicopter that crashed in Blair, W.Va., on Thursday,...
Associated Press

NTSB: West Virginia helicopter crashed on last flight of day

LOGAN, W.Va. (AP) — A helicopter that crashed during an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts was on its last planned flight of the day, a federal agency investigating the accident said Friday. The National Transportation Safety Board said all six people aboard — the pilot and five passengers, two of whom were pilot-rated — were […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Couple sues Boston hospital over loss of baby’s body

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts couple whose prematurely-born baby girl died less than two weeks after she was delivered has sued one of Boston’s most prestigious hospitals for losing the infant’s body, denying the parents the opportunity to hold a proper funeral and burial. The lawsuit filed Thursday says that baby Everleigh’s body was inadvertently […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Governors announce ‘West Coast offense’ to protect abortion

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Democratic governors of California, Washington and Oregon on Friday vowed to protect reproductive rights and help women who travel to the West Coast seeking abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The three states are building a “West Coast offense” to protect patients’ access to reproductive […]
15 hours ago
From left, former Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel, for...
Associated Press

Jan. 6: Pressure, unsung heroes and Trump’s Watergate echoes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Jan. 6 committee launched under deep political skepticism: What more could be said about the deadly insurrection at the Capitol in 2021 that played out for all the world to see? Quite a lot, it turns out. The public hearings this month are showing in vivid and clear detail just […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Senior living centers across US accept more pets