Becoming Pet Parents,  Lifestyle,  Senior Living

Becoming Pet Parents Over 60

Pets sustain us and keep us healthier, happier and more hopeful as we age, no barks or meows about it. A recent story in Harvard Magazine cited an American Heart Association finding that pets reduce our mortality rate by 24 percent and the Mayo Clinic confirms pets keep us in much better shape, both physically and mentally. But new challenges emerge as we age, including medical diagnoses that can keep us away from our furry, feathered friends or make it impossible to care for them, as well as unforeseen financial issues and living arrangements that change our capacity to care or keep them. These are tough scenarios to imagine, but it is a reality we should all expect and plan for during our second half, so let’s sniff out a few ways to mitigate pet parent challenges in advance so our glorious Golden Years don’t go to the dogs…

Plan Ahead

Before you get a pet, make sure your friends and family are in on your planning. If you expect to pass an animal onto another person (should you become incapacitated or unable to care for it), communicate your wishes to your loved ones long in advance of a crisis. Make sure you have saved or budgeted enough money to cover vet, food and maintenance bills for at least a 10-year stretch. Also, establish a relationship with a vet who makes house calls, so you can keep up with vet visits if you become incapacitated or unable to drive. Plan for all contingencies and communicate these plans with the people in your life. Aligning plans with the expectations of others, particularly the ones who will be supporting you during your Golden Years, is a must when it comes to becoming a pet parent.

Choose Your Pet Thoughtfully

Before you bring a pet into your home, think about the kind of animal that best fits the environment in which you live. How big is your house and yard? Does your HOA or landlord allow pets? What is your budget? What are the physical requirements for having this pet or that pet? Once you have answered those basic questions of environment and affordability, start thinking about the kind of breed that would flourish in this space. Is it a dog, cat, bird, rodent (Forbes recently published a list of good dogs for seniors, so start here if a dog is in your sights)? Dog and cat breeds have very different strengths, so make sure you are aware of them before bringing them into your home.

Pet & Travel Considerations

Pets are a huge and expensive anchor point if you want to travel or be gone for long stretches of time. Doggy daycare can cost anywhere between $40 and $280 per day, (according to a recent story in Pet sitters, dog walkers and generous friends are other options, but all must be investigated thoroughly prior to having a pet on the scene. My suggestion, if travel is a big part of your second-half vision, it’s wise to not get a pet, or if you do, implement a concrete plan for care and cost coverage.

Adopting vs. Buying

When reviewing options for becoming a pet parent, it is generous, loving and wise to think about rescuing an animal. Senior dogs and cats are desperate for a loving home. They are usually housebroken, slower moving, gentler and happily into their third act (meaning there is a more reasonable timeframe in play for managing them). Also, rescue pets are a good idea because they can be returned to the rescue organization (if you cannot rehome your pet) if you find that you can no longer care for them.

As we age, it is important to be open, communicative and realistic about becoming pet parents, its expense and associated logistics. While having a pet is beneficial to our health in many proven ways, it opens the door to problems that can change the scope of our senior years.

Do you have a pet? How do you plan to manage potential challenges down the road? What factors did you consider before you became a pet parent? Let us know in the comments below and until next week, be happy, healthy, and beautiful!

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