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Shelter Pets Get a New Lease on Life in Assisted Living

By on September 26, 2014
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Studies show that pets can improve health and enhance lives in assisted living, but can we do the same for them? Sunrise Senior Living says “yes,” by giving shelter pets a home.

Shelter Pets Get New Lease on Life in Assisted Living

Sunrise Senior Living Shelter Pets

Bugsy the beagle used to be a shelter dog, but now he lives with 115 other assisted living residents at a Sunrise Senior Living home in Washington, D.C., according to an article in the Huffington Post.

The article describes how he “likes to graze for food in the dining room and romp outside in the gardens,” along with his friend Nesbitt, who was once a homeless cat.

Beth Jansen, the Executive Director of the home, tells the Post that both animals have adjusted to their new lives in assisted living, where they have a calming effect on residents.

They “make it feel homey,” she says.

Assisted Living Pets on the Rise

Studies show that assisted living residents have better overall health, more friends and generally feel better, when owning a pet. As known health benefits to having pets increase, so are the number of pets in senior living.

Jansen says in the article that Sunrise Senior Living homes encourage residents to move their animals into assisted living with them, but that each home has at least two communal pets for those who do not have one of their own.

Most animals are also rescued shelter pets, which Samantha Lawrence, Sunrise’s Director of Program Services, tells the Post is good for residents, too.

“Welcoming a rescue animal into our community allows them to feel that they are giving a pet what Sunrise is giving them — a second chance at an independent and joyful life, just in a new place,” she says.

Pets Changing Assisted Living

There is no doubt that pets in assisted living are changing residents and senior living communities.

Studies show that animals are therapeutic to assisted living residents, and that just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal lowers levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increases production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels drop in seniors spending time with a pet, and over time, their interaction can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and protect against heart disease and stroke.

Their presence deeply affects senior living residents, and in turn, the pets are given a new, loving place to call home, which begs the question: Who is really rescuing who?

Finding Pet Friendly Assisted Living has more than 200 Senior Living Advisors who have in-depth knowledge of the communities in their area, and can send you a list of communities that meet your family’s and pet’s needs. Contact us to get started, and make sure to let your Advisor know that you’re looking for a pet friendly community.

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Caitlin Burm is an award-winning editor and writer who has written extensively about education, health and senior care, most recently at A Place for Mom and previously at Arizona State University and the City of Tempe, Arizona. She thrives on content strategy and storytelling and resides in Phoenix with her daughter and husband.