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.
Why this topic?
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
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.