The Journey Continues – Pet Adoption & the Elderly

 

I still have a hard time thinking of myself as “elderly” or a “senior citizen.”  For that reason, some things just don’t occur to me until someone tells me a story or I read one about a certain subject.  Case in point:  I had no idea that some pet adoption centers and shelters will not reject you for adoption of one of their animals if you are over a certain age.  What???

This wouldn’t have even occurred to me had I not been talking to a friend who just lost her dog and wold like to adopt another pet.  Because she has some health issues and because she’s in her late 60s, that’s not a possibility for her. You see, some of the adoption centers and shelters now discriminate against seniors with the justification that the pet could outlive you and then what would happen to the pet?  Again…what???

It’s my understanding that some of these very same centers and shelters are begging people to adopt the pets.  Why then would they take a stance again a particular section of the population?  Also, how do the know that the pet will outlive the adopting human?  That’s a HUGE assumption that makes no sense to me.

I’m 72, in reasonably good health with many good years ahead of me, I’m sure.  Do you mean to tell me that if I came to one of those centers and applied that I would be rejected because of my age?  That hardly seems fair to me or the pet looking for a forever home.  There has to be a compromise somewhere in all this that would satisfy the concerns of the center/shelter and allow a senior to give a loving home to a pet.

I guess another reason this really irks me is that there are people much younger that come to adopt pets and sometimes don’t give the pet a good, loving home.  Age does not equate to being a good person, young or old.  How do they screen for that?  Or is it not a concern because these people will outlive the pets?  Sheesh!

I would think that the reasonable response would be to require older people to be able to put in writing what would happen to the pet should they become ill, or, heaven forbid, pass away.  They might even require the name and address of someone who would take on the responsibility of the pet, should either of those things happen to the senior wanting to adopt.

(Shaking my head.)  We truly live in a strange world that’s becoming stranger all the time.  Here we are in a pandemic that’s kept us in some form of isolation or quarantine for more than nine months.  Seniors already don’t get out as much as younger people.  Now they get out less, if at all, have less contact with others, and often feel lonely.  Adopting a pet is a win/win situation with love flowing from both directions and being received by both.

There was research that began in 1921 by Lewis Terman, a psychologist, that ran for 80 years, studying the effects of having a pet and the health and longevity of 1500 people.  They followed these people from their childhood onward.  The data from the study between 1950 and May, 2019, was particularly interesting.  It showed dog owners lived longer than those who didn’t own one.

It has been shown that interacting with animals improves both depression and loneliness in the elderly as well as improving their quality of life.  It was also shown in a 20 year study of 4000 people that owning a cat can decrease risk due to heart attack or stroke.  With all these positive benefits for the owner, as well as the pet, again I ask why anyone would deny the elderly the opportunity to own an animal – especially if it might increase their lifespan?  Makes no sense to me.

I’m not suggesting that someone who absolutely isn’t able to take care of a pet, or hasn’t got anyone to help them take care of a pet, be able to adopt.  What I’m saying is, one size does NOT fit all and I don’t believe a person’s age should immediately disqualify them from giving a pet a loving, caring home.

If you’re wondering if I just solely took my friend’s word for this without checking it out, the answer would be “no.”  I did do some digging and found that it is true.  That was very disturbing to me.  While I cannot say that this is true at every adoption center or shelter, and I hope it’s not, to be true at even one is both disheartening and disappointing.  The assumption that just because you’re over a certain age you should be denied the opportunity to adopt a pet is just wrong.

It also gives me pause for myself.  I lost my lovely female Maine Coon back in May, 2019.  I’m hoping to find another.  If I do, will I be allowed to adopt her?  After all, I’m older than my friend who’s being denied the right.  If that’s the case, should I even bother to look?  It leaves a lot of questions in my mind and a lot of pain in my heart.

Perhaps the Universe will bring one to me.  After her passing, we had one cat appear at our back door that August looking for a home, so we took him in.  He was maybe a year old.  The following August, this year, we heard a kitten crying outside our back door.  It seems someone dropped him off and somehow he found his way to our back door.  Once again, we took him in.  He was only a couple months old when that happened.  He’s five months old now.  Strange, huh?  Makes you wonder if we would have been allowed to adopt them from a center/shelter.  Also makes me optimistic that maybe my black, female Maine Coon is out there looking for a home and will perhaps find her way to my back door.  That would be awesome!

If you do go to adopt from an adoption center/site or from an animal shelter, ask if they have any age restrictions for adoption.  It would be interesting to discover just how widespread this age discrimination is.  Maybe if enough people ask and complain about it’s unfairness, they will stop denying the elderly a chance at giving a loving home to a pet looking to share their love in a forever home.

Thanks for listening…

Friends

Love & Blessed Be