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Retiring with Your Pet - Are Pets Allowed in Retirement Communities?

Pets have a positive effect on people's health. Study after study have shown that pets can help improve blood pressure, decrease stress, ease pain, encourage exercise / activity, and even helps to break the ice when talking to new people. In short, pets make us feel better! But what happens when you're thinking of moving into a retirement community, whether it's an assisted-living community or a long-term care facility? Can your pet join you? In some cases, is a possibility.

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Types of Retirement Communities

  • Independent living communities is any type of housing that's geared towards seniors. They are designed for healthy, active older adults who are able to live with minor assistance, and often take care outdoor maintenance of things like gardens and walkways. This is the type of retirement community most likely to allow pets as residents are expected to be capable of caring properly for their own pets. Types of housing are typically condominium or apartment complexes, townhouse communities, sometimes even detached single family homes. You probably wouldn't 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 round-the-clock assistance or monitoring, or the extended services of a nursing home. Residents might require help with medication, cooking or chores.

  • A long-term care facility (nursing home) provides both help with day-to-day activities as well as significant medical care. Residents live communally in their own rooms (or in shared rooms), with a common eating area, communal lounges, shared activities, etc.

Bringing Your Pet to Your Retirement Home

Some retirement communities will allow residents to bring their pets with them. 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. And in other communities, resident pets aren't allowed but they may have a pet assisted therapy program in place that brings pets in to visit with the 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 talk to the resident manager to see if it is even a possibility. Some communities may require:

  • An assessment of your pet to see if it will fit into the community and with the residents.

  • A trial period to assess how well your pet is adjusting to the community, and how well the community and residents are adjusting to your pet.

  • 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. Generally speaking, many communities will expect that you will be able to care for your pet on your own, or with only minor help.

  • 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.

  • Your pet must be past a certain age. Puppies and young dogs, for example, are generally much more work than an older, calmer pet.

  • 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.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it simply may not be possible to bring your pet with you. Alternatives include asking a trusted family or friend whether or not they will adopt your pet; speaking with your local humane society to ask if they can assist you in helping to find your pet a suitable home; and talking to your veterinarian, groomer, and anyone else with contacts in the pet world who may know someone suitable that may be interested in adopting your pet.

It's becoming more common to see pets in retirement communities. And if you spend some time with the residents, many would likely tell you what a delight it is to have a pet companion living with them! Retiring with your pet may be a challenge, but it's one worth exploring. More and more communities are acknowledging that pets have a positive effect on the health and well-being of its residents.