Dog Fancy Uncovers a Quiet Revolution in Assisted Living Communities

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014 10:48 am EDT


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"Retirement Revolution,” written by Dog Fancy magazine contributing editor and author Lynn M. Hayner, documents a surprising change at America’s assisted-living facilities, with a majority of them now welcoming companion animals into their communities. This important report in the December 2014 issue of Dog Fancy, the world’s most widely read dog magazine, represents a major shift in caring for our nation’s aging population, reflecting a growing realization that dogs provide physical and mental benefits, especially as people age.

In "Retirement Revolution,” Hayner brings to light the work being done by healthcare researchers who are exploring the physical and mental benefits dogs provide to humans, especially the sick and elderly.

This research is prompting thousands of assisted living communities in the U.S. to welcome dogs and other companion animals as permanent residents. The article also reveals that many retirement communities are even going so far as to adopt a group-pet (often from shelters or adoption organizations) for all the residents to care for and enjoy.

"Clearly the communities are responding to a demanding market,” says Hayner, who is a retired attorney. 

"One survey indicated that the number-one requested amenity (by aging adults) was that they be allowed to have companion animals. These healthcare facilities have just quietly and quickly updated their policies by implementing pet-friendly programs. And by adopting and rescuing animals, these facilities are not only helping their human residents, but they are providing loving homes for homeless animals as well.”

As revealed in "Retirement Revolution,” facilities where pets are welcomed have a higher rate of healthy residents. Not only does this benefit the human and canine occupants, but also the senior facilities and society as a whole. Some of the health benefits attributed to

  • Reduced depression
  • Decreased doctor visits
  • Promotes social interaction
  • Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Reduced stress
  • Instills a sense of purpose
  • Healthier heart rates

The research shows that when residents are healthier, it reflects back on healthcare costs. "What really impacted me in writing this piece was learning that we as a society would be saving money in many ways by encouraging retirement communities to be dog-friendly,” Hayner emphatically explains. "What happy news it was to hear that man’s best friend could actually help lower healthcare costs!”

For the Dog Fancy article, Hayner interviewed many highly respected healthcare professionals, researchers and veterinarians who shared various research statistics, analytics and findings. Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine contributed her research studies to the article. "Older adults with dogs feel motivated to remain physically active,” says Johnson. "One example in our research shows that dog walking (versus walking alone or even with another person) has distinct health advantages.”

As reported by Hayner’s research, in a national network of 20,000 assisted living providers, nearly 64 percent accept pets. Once considered ‘no-pet’ zones, today thousands of senior communities consider themselves pet-friendly.

"As I delved into researching and interviewing sources for the article, I expected to find that the number of communities allowing companion animals was on the rise,” says Hayner. "But, I was blown away to learn that a majority of retirement communities now allow companion animals. And with many facilities adopting pets, I think there’s a natural continuity here. It’s a story that definitely needs to be told.”


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