Magazine article Work & Family Life

Pet-Friendly Resources for Seniors

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Pet-Friendly Resources for Seniors

Article excerpt

When my 83-year-old husband Jim emerged from anesthesia after surgery, his first groggy words were, "I miss Buddy."

The nurse sitting by a bedside monitor in the hospital recovery room leaned closer and asked, "Who's Buddy?"

I explained that Buddy was our Yorkshire terrier who had died a few months before. He had been a member of our family for 16 years, and he and Jim were best friends.

Pets are important in the lives of people of all ages, of course. But evolving attitudes and changing family structures have reshaped the relationship between older people and our animal companions.

deepening attachment

As more Americans live alone and families have fewer children, our attachment to pets has deepened, says Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.

Many of us think of our pets as "people." We talk to them, sing to them, travel with them, send them to doggie summer camp- and make a great emotional and financial investment in them.

Pet ownership has increased in recent years. Currently 65 percent of U.S. households include animals, and spending on pet items has grown to $60 billion a year. On average, pet owners spend more than $1,600 on a year on a dog and $1,100 on a cat.

As baby boomers have become empty nesters, they look for other things to nurture.

"I've noticed the retirement dream for many clients is still drinking a piña colada on the beach, but now they see a Lab next to them," says Houston financial planner Richard Rosso. And now he includes "pet budget lines" in his financial plans for retirees.

a growing demand

Older people, among other pet owners, have become increasingly demanding of pet-friendly services in their communities and on the road. They want to bring their pets to restaurants and hotels, and they want fancier dog runs with agility courses and watering stations. …

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