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Thesis Research Compendium 




The relationship between seniors and their pets

My goal is to designing (for) companionship to improve people’s life. Creating for pets to help themselves in order to help humans (owners), since they related to each other’s presence. 

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Why this topic?


What problems do seniors have?


Physical and Mental Health

- Health Care Costs/ Nursing Home Care

- Financial Security

- Bereavement, Social Isolation, and Loneliness

- Elder Abuse

Why pets


- Pet ownership is increasing.

  American pet ownership increase to 68%

- The benefits of companionship

- Pet therapy in patients with mental illness

- Pet industry expenditure is increasing.

  18% of people spent over $100/month

- The percentage of dog training class

The Benefits of Pet Ownership for the seniors

Animals can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase social interaction and physical activity. Pets provide other intangibles, too. “Dogs and cats live very much in the present,” says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey-based psychotherapist. “They don’t worry about tomorrow, which can be a very scary concept for an older person. An animal embodies that sense of here and now, and it tends to rub off on people.” Pets for Seniors in Illinois created an adoption program that matches senior dogs and senior cats with senior citizens. They worked out solutions to the issues that seniors have with pet adoption, and the program is very successful.


The program pays for most of the adoption fee, chooses calm and housebroken older dogs, and provides support every step of the way. If the animal is not a good fit, the organization will take back the pet and refund any fees. Other humane shelters around the nation are trying to replicate this model.

“We never felt alone when Bonnie was in the house. As we aged and tended to go out less, she provided us with loving companionship.”

                            -  said by her owner

Real-life stories


Rose and Fluffy

When Rose's daughter passed away in 2004, she left behind her cat Fluffy with no one to care for her. So Rose, at that time in her early seventies, welcomed her daughter's pet cat into her home with open arms.

"I find comfort knowing that I have my daughter's cat," Rose says. While she might not have planned on raising Fluffy these past 12 years, she's certainly grateful for the opportunity to be 86 in her life.

One of the biggest reasons why pets and the elderly make a perfect pair is the type of companionship dogs and cats offer their pet parent. "I would be so lonely without them," Rose says of her two cats. And Fluffy stays by Rose's side all day long. "Wherever I go she follows me. I have to watch my step! I think we've both had nine lives!"

With Fluffy's advancing age, she is experiencing medical issues that Rose needs to attend. "She had to have most of her teeth out, but she still manages to eat like a horse! "I don't know what I would do without my animals! I have two cats, another one named Blacky. They keep me going. I take care of them, but they take care of me too!"

Art and Duncan

Pets for the elderly can be motivators to stay physically active and healthy. Art, who is in his eighties, still works and walks his dog Duncan regularly. "I walk with a cane and Duncan is very considerate as to not pull me down during our outings together." In fact, Art even takes Duncan into work with him sometimes. "Everyone in the office loves him." Work isn't the only place Art and Duncan travel together, either. "Many of the neighborhood restaurants allow me to bring him to dinner. He has indeed become the neighborhood celebrity dog."

Duncan is a dog cancer survivor and underwent both chemotherapy and surgery to treat his illness. Art says, "At 13, [Duncan] is doing quite well considering his ordeal." He continues, "His handling of the cancer surgery and chemo have helped me understand the hardships and pain of treatment. I have lost family members to cancer but was not with them almost every minute of their lives as I have been with Duncan, so I have a much better understanding of the treatments and resulting pain and hardships they create."

So, not only does Duncan keep Art active, but Art also takes care of Duncan throughout and after his cancer treatment.


What is the problem between seniors and pets?

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Market research

How people deal with this problem on the market now?

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Education the public

Education the public ?

Dominic Wilcox designs contemporary art exhibition for dogs

"Contemporary art has long been an important source of inspiration and fascination for humans, but never before has it been created with a view to drawing the same kind of emotions out of animals instead," 

                                               -  said Wilcox

TV show:Animal Cribs 

Designer Antonio Ballatore's edgy, rock 'n' roll-inspired makeovers helped him win HGTV's `Design Star' competition and were subsequently featured on his own series, `The Antonio Treatment'. Now he brings his visionary design aesthetic to pet lovers everywhere. After all, if Dad can have a man cave and Mom a she shed, Rocky gets to relax in an animal crib! On the job with project manager Grace and trusty companion Chewie the bulldog, Antonio turns dreary, cramped homes and outdoor areas into functional spaces for both the homeowners and their pets. His love of animals and design drives Antonio to go the extra mile for his clients and their four legged, winged, and scaly friends.

City Allows You to Install DIY Cat Ladders


Pet Doors for People Who Live on Upper Floors: This City Allows You to Install DIY Cat Ladders. Designer Brigitte Schuster documents the Swiss phenomenon of cat-based infrastructure


Activity 1: How people feel about different scenarios?

I prepared 5 different videos for 15 people and asked them how they felt. Two videos about companion pets (toy), one about therapy dogs, one about pet dog and the elderly, and a dog museum

1. Companion Pet

2. Paro seal

3. Angel

4. Patient dog

5. Exhibition for dogs

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I don't think the companion pet toy has much respect for seniors.  We should treat them as adults, not as children. They need help, but it's not that they can't do it themselves. They have mature ideas.

Activity 2: How difficult will it be?

Makes my knees and back difficult to move by using wood boards and bottles


Activity 3: The basic routine for taking care of a pet

I took pictures of different pet owners taking care of their pets and marked what would make them inconvenient or difficult if they become elderly

Interview pets owners

Interview Pets owners (seniors)

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Maryellen : 

Anne : 

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Chris Turner and Rachel Maloney - Turner: 

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Alfred Chin

Visit animal shelters

Visit Animal shelter

Interview founders
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Why Design products for pets?

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Interview dog trainer

Interview professional dog trainer

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Direction 1

Education of the public, training is important.

Direction 2

Shelter animals as companion animals

Design for the senior shelter dog


Making shelter animals more comfortable


Direction 3

Combine human daily object with a pet toy or training tool.

Designing objects for pets to help themselves in order to help humans/ owners.

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Combine human daily object with a pet toy or training tool.

Human daily object + Pets

Combine human daily object with a pet toy or training tool

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I lay on the sofa and called my cat but she ignored me. So I shook the chain and brought out the treat, and she came over.

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