For example, she said Jimmy’s Place, a pet hotel, is a safe haven for pets when a senior needs a temporary place for his or her pet to stay. Sponsored by the Osceola Council on Aging in Kissimmee, Fla., Jimmie’s Place offers food, shelter, exercise and basic needs satisfaction for pets. Pet owners can pre-register their pets for the program with their basic information and service preferences.
“[We do this to deal with] elder abuse,” McGill said. “We write a lot of checks to shelters that allow them to bring pets. Some women have not left their homes because their pets [would] be killed.”
Support From Gerontologists
Senior health care specialty groups also contribute to encouraging pet ownership among seniors when designing their medical plans of health care and housing.
“[We help seniors] transition with pets,” said Karen Kolb Flude, a gerontologist and founder and principal of Age with Ease, a Chicago-based organization addressing the needs of the elderly that consults with seniors and their families and friends to create a plan of medical care and independent living that encompasses treatment, therapy, housing, physical exercise, volunteerism and socialization.
“Animals sense change. [We] talk with clients [to see] what they want and [determine] how a pet [will] transition. [We develop] built-in support systems ahead of time and [give seniors a] chance to get more prepared than [they] previously have been. [They] can be better off than when they started.”
Kolb-Flude said that her staff gerontologists can help seniors prepare strategies for the big move, including packing considerations, methods of bringing pets to new housing and care settings, scoping the area for new opportunities, finding local resources and locating new veterinarians.
Members of her medical team can also assist seniors with ordering dogs ahead of time and new pet care supplies to keep for a long time.
To provide such pet ownership services for its patients, Age With Ease has partnered with the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society; the Animal Welfare League; a cat’s shelter in Chicago’s north side East Rogers Park neighborhood; Chicago Community Humane Center, an in-home pet care facility for seniors, too, in Rogers Park.; PAWS; TreeHouse Animal Foundation; the Gabriel Foundation for bird adoption; Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey and KSDS Inc. in Washington, Kan. for therapy dogs.
“[We decide] how to support pets for medical transitions,” Kolb-Flude said. “[We have a] built- in plan for animals for future care, [including] with new beds and new treatments. [We check to see] what resources are available.”
Support From Senior Long-Term Care, Architecture Industry
Aside from receiving funding and technical assistance from philanthropic organizations such as Banfield and counseling from gerontologists, senior long-term care facilities and the architecture industry support pet ownership among seniors with their own internal commercial programs.
An example is Pathway Senior Living, a Chicago-based commercial provider formed in 1997 of 13 affordable assisted living communities of over 1,000 units as well as one market-rate assisted living facility and seven senior independent living apartment buildings in Illinois, Wisconsin and Atlanta, Georgia.
Pathway offers senior care, including active adult homes, senior independent living congregate apartments, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers and market-rate and mixed-income housing.
It includes among its many programs one named “See Spot Retire,” a canine companion initiative to improve the lives of older dogs by pairing them with residents for committed relationships.
“We rescue older dogs [with our] Canine Pet Companion Program,” said Maria Oliva, Pathway’s Chief People Officer.
“[We] offer older dogs a new lease on life. [We offer] residents meaningful relationships [to] improve morale, stress relief, better health and unconditional love. They must have a reason to get up every day. They make decisions about people. Our staff helps them to care for pets.”
Such partners as Life Services Network of Illinois and the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition (AALC) support the work of Pathway to provide senior care and housing in the Midwest.
Namely, the chain’s properties include the following:
Age Well Centre for Life Enrichment in Green Bay, Wisc.;
Alexian Village of Elk Grove in Chicago’s northwest suburban Elk Grove, Ill.;
Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Chicago’s northwest suburban Round Lake Beach, Ill.;
Victory Centre of Bartlett in Chicago’s west suburban Bartlett, Illinois;
Victory Centre of Galewood in Chicago;
Victory Centre of Joliet in Chicago’s south suburban Joliet, Ill.;
Victory Centre of Park Forest in Chicago’s south suburban Park Forest, Ill.;
Victory Centre of River Oaks in Chicago’s south suburban Calumet City, Ill.;
Victory Centre of River Woods in Chicago’s west suburban Melrose Park, Ill.;
Victory Centre of Roseland in Chicago; Victory Centre of Sierra Ridge in Chicago’s south suburban Country Club Hills, Ill.;
Victory Centre of South Chicago, and;
Victory Centre of Vernon Hills in Chicago’s northwest suburban Vernon Hills, Ill.
Oliva related one success story with a visually-impaired and chronically ill dog named Lucky in one of the 120 senior independent living apartments and assisted living centers run by Pathway. “One lady likes to pet the dog,” she said. “She [says she] felt relaxation. She says she loves the dog.”
The elderly woman in question lived in a Pathway community for one year with the dog, who was blind in one eye, which was full of cataracts.
“He was ill,” Oliva said. “I didn’t think he would live. As he got sick, he walked [more slowly].
[But] he helped in our environment.”
She explained that Pathway forms relationships with dog rescue organizations throughout Chicago and representatives from these groups in various communities decide with which senior long-term care facility an assigned dog will live.
Often, facilities will seek out larger dogs that are four years old or older as they do not present tripping hazards and are easier to pet, Oliva said.
Determining factors for a dog’s next place of residence include whether a dog is in foster care and has a foster care record, the history of its owners, how its community members feel about the particular dog in question, how many residents reside in the designated senior care center and whether technical assistance is available to transition the dog from the rescue organization to its new home at a senior care setting.
“Personalities are different,” said Andrew Alden, Living Environments Studio Director of Eppstein Uhen Architects, an architectural firm with branches in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin and Des Moines, Iowa, and one of the four panelists for the presentation.