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Retiring with Your Pet

Every week or two my little dog and I go visit the residents of a local long-term care facility. The elderly residents are delighted by his visit; they pat him, sweet-talk him, hug him ... and in return, my dog often puts his head down and begins snoring - something that never fails to delight them.

There's no doubt about it: pets have a positive effect on people. And now there's good news for older people with pets - if you're thinking of moving into a retirement community, you may be able to find one that will allow you to bring your four-legged friend with you.

Types of Retirement Communities

Independent living communities are the type of retirement community most likely to allow pets. They are designed for healthy, active older adults who are able to live without assistance, and are thus able to care properly for their pets. You probably wouldn't be able to notice a difference between an independent living community and other residential communities except for the age of the residents.

Assisted living communities, on the other hand, are meant for older adults who need regular help with daily activities - but do not require the services of a nursing home.

Bringing Your Pet to Your Retirement Home

Some assisted living communities will allow residents to bring their lifelong pets, while others may permit a "community pet": a pet that doesn't belong to any person in particular, but that lives within the community to provide companionship to all residents.

If you or a family member is looking for a retirement community that will allow you to bring your pet friend with you, be sure to get a copy of their pet policies. Some communities may require:

  • An extra deposit to cover possible pet-related damages to the facilities.

  • Pet care fees to cover anything that you cannot provide for your pet. This can include walking your dog, cleaning kitty litter, feeding or bathing your pet, and other such services.

  • Only certain types of pets permitted. For example, some communities will allow dogs or cats but will not permit reptiles.

  • Your pet be under a certain size. Some communities may only allow cats or small dogs below a certain weight or height.

  • Pets to be socialized or screened. In communities where there may be a number of resident pets, it is in everyone's best interests that they all get along. Some communities may screen your pet to determine that they are properly socialized (can get along with other people and pets) and reasonably obedient.

It's not uncommon to see pets in retirement communities. And if you spend some time with the residents, they're sure to tell you what a delight it is to have a pet companion living with them. It's wonderful to see more and more communities catering to the health and well-being of its residents by permitting pets.