Elderly Pet Activities

by Janie
(Kansas)

On our campus elderly pet activities are very popular, as visiting pets are allowed. We've done several different things with pets.

In our independent living apartments, people can have pets of course. In the assisted living and nursing home areas, live-in pets are not accepted, but we can have visitors come in with a pet. Many of our elderly really miss not having an animal around, so we try to structure regular times to have them come in, in different ways.

Here are some of the things we do. (This only works well with pets that are calm and used to being around people).
Our staff who live near by with pets take turns bringing their cats or dogs into work for awhile on a given day that they choose. This is scheduled, so staff and residents know what to expect. The pet is there for a couple hours, then taken home. Since the person lives nearby, it works out fine. Residents get to know the animals and vice versa. They will easily sit in people's laps and allow them to pet.

We also have an animal shelter bring out pets every other Friday, when we have fewer other scheduled activities. The same two people usually come out, and they know the types of animals to bring. Again, calm yet friendly. They take them for walks outdoors in the courtyard, so some residents can go along. Those in wheelchairs can also have a chance to go outdoors with the shelter staff and the pet. And they also enjoy petting them and giving treats! A couple of the dogs have been trained and could do a few "tricks" so that was quite entertaining.

We've also had people from the pet store come over and give presentations about pets, interesting facts, even with a slide show, etc. And often bring one or two along. We have even had a couple more exotic pets -- like from the lizard family. The presentation about tropical fish was really popular, and we ended up getting an aquarium for the campus.

Another time we had the local elementary school class come and share some of the animals they had in their classroom. One was a caterpillar display in which they were going to make cocoons and become butterflies. Another was about preying mantis. (Kids love bugs). And a gerbil of course. But it was fascinating to hear all the children had to say about these creatures, and the residents really enjoyed it.

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