Cheryl with her dog

Friends fur-ever: discover companionship in pet-friendly senior living

From the beginning of time, humans and pets have been two peas in a pod. Whether it was the goldfish you had in elementary school or the dog you had throughout your adult life, you’ve likely formed bonds with your pets that are like no other. When looking at the numbers, 55% of adults between 50 and 80 years old have pets, and over half of those adults have multiple pets, according to a 2019 study by Michigan Medicine.

While many pet owners can age at home as they reach senior age, others may choose to downsize to a senior living community, or they develop health conditions that require them to transition into senior living. For seniors, pet-friendly communities are a dream for them, as it allows them to keep their companions by their side.

Luckily, Southwest Florida is home to over 150 pet-friendly senior living options, which makes that dream a reality. Gulf Coast Village, Cape Coral’s only continuing care retirement community (CCRC), invites residents to bring their furry, finned or feathered friends to their new home upon moving in. It also offers an on-site play area for pets and walking trails for residents and their pets for exercise.

So, what are the perks of pet-friendly senior living, and how can you find your perfect fit?

Increase ‘paw-sitivity’

Pets bring more to our lives than just happiness and a game of fetch. In fact, even a brief interaction with a dog can increase your oxytocin levels, which is the “love hormone” that brews positivity and, in turn, reduces stress and anxiety.

Pets are also proven to reduce loneliness. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute reports that 80% of pet owners feel less lonely with a pet, and 56% feel that their pet helps them socialize. For years, Gulf Coast Village has implemented pet therapy in Palmview, the community’s assisted living and memory support building. Pet therapy has proven to help residents with anxiety, depression and agitation, and it also reignites sweet memories of their own past pets.

Set a schedule

Oftentimes, our pets wake up before we do, and when they do, they’re hungry. This is just one way that pets help us establish a routine. By waking up at the same time each morning for breakfast, our pets hold us accountable for getting up from bed, opening the blinds and getting our days started. Mealtimes and walks outside become programmed into your pet’s body clock, and they’ll keep you in a set routine. For retired seniors, this guarantees things for you to do throughout your day and keeps you busy.

Find the right fit

In addition to Gulf Coast Village in Cape Coral being a pet-friendly community, it also offers a full continuum of care, including independent living, memory support, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. For seniors who want to age independently, but also want to be surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals and have access to high-quality health care, Gulf Coast Village covers all the bases. If their health care needs shift, residents can transition from independent living to a different level of care, such as assisted living, memory support or skilled nursing, while remaining on the same campus.

Gulf Coast Village is also convenient for independent living residents with vehicles who want easy access to a pet store, dog park or pet-friendly dining option. The CCRC is just a short drive to several pet stores and dog parks and is 10-20 minutes away from an array of pet-friendly restaurants. Gulf Coast Village residents are welcome to own up to two cats or two dogs under 30 pounds, as well as fish or birds.

Another local pet-friendly community is The Preserve, a senior living community in Fort Myers that offers assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and outpatient rehabilitation services. Like Gulf Coast Village, The Preserve also brings joy to residents through the power of pet therapy, and residents are welcome to bring their companions. With an enclosed outdoor courtyard and screened lanais and patios, there are plenty of spaces for pets to get some extra sun, go for a walk and play with their owners.

You shouldn’t have to give up the joy of having a pet when you make the choice to move to a senior living community. When planning the next steps of your senior living journey, know what pet-friendly senior living options are available to you and your best friend.