We Get A Lot of Questions About Pets

Pets at Retirement Home

We love pets at Franke Tobey Jones! Many people who tour our community are surprised that we welcome pets with open arms because so many retirement communities do not allow pets. But, we know from our many years of experience how important pets are to seniors, and we’re thrilled to see the smiles on our residents faces when they are with their beloved pet and to see how much joy their furry family members bring to them.

“Pets are important for FTJ residents because, even it isn’t your pet, a shared dog or cat can bring joy and laughter to many,” says FTJ Resident Pat Mail. “Plus, FTJ backs onto a large municipal park where walking trails abound. Some pets are “adopted” by several residents, who just seem to have treats in their pockets. Walking is safe, even in the evenings. So bring a beloved small pet with you and visit our pet haven.”

For senior pet owners, who often live alone or in group facilities, pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction and physical activity and help them learn. “A new pet can stimulate someone to read up on an animal or breed, which can be very mentally stimulating and important at that age,” says Dr. Katharine Hillestad, a veterinarian with the office of Doctors Foster and Smith in Rhinelander, Wis., which provides online advice and retails pet supplies and pharmaceuticals.

Pets provide other intangibles. “Dogs and other pets live very much in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow. And tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. By having an animal with that sense of now, it tends to rub off on people,” says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey psychotherapist.

And pets can reduce depression and lessen loneliness. “Older pet owners have often told us how incredibly barren and lonely their lives were without their pet’s companionship, even when there were some downsides to owning an active pet,” says Linda Anderson, who founded the Angel Animals Network in Minneapolis with her husband Allen. The couple speaks about the joys of pet ownership and has authored books.

 “Although pet ownership in senior residences is gradually increasing, most require you to live in specific areas and keep your pet our of others, and they do not allow the replacement of a lost pet,” comments Carol Bruda, FTJ resident and pet lover-owner. “FTJ realizes that if you have always had a pet, you may become depressed if you lose the one you came with and are not allowed another.  Here you can replace deceased pets and it’s allowed on-lease everywhere…including the adjacent 700 acre park!”

Do you exercise, watch your diet or take medication to lower your blood pressure, blood fats and cholesterol levels? If you do, maybe you should also get yourself a pet.

Furthermore, a new research confirms and expands earlier studies indicating a link between pet ownership and a reduced risk of developing heart disease.

Results of a three-year study of 5,741 people at the Baker Medical Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia, show that pet owners had lower blood pressure and triglyceride and cholesterol levels than did non-owners – a result that could not be explained by such personal differences as cigarette smoking, diet, weight or socio-economic profile.

Of the 3,394 men and 2,347 women engaged in the study, 784 reported that they owned one or more pets. They showed significantly lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, as well as lower systolic blood pressure readings than for non-pet owners. When examining the results, researchers tried to determine if there was some factor other than pet ownership that was influencing the outcome. Not so. 

A look at lifestyle risk factors also failed to turn up any evidence that could have influenced the findings. Pet owners reported that they were more active, but they also drank more alcohol and ate more take-out food. 

While studies continue…pet owners can look at their animal companions with even greater appreciation for the ways they enrich their lives.