14 April 2009


There is a large body of research that establishes that pets do older people a lot of good. Companion animals do become part of the family and help people relax and are a form of socialization.

However, as we age, they can become complications. More than 21,000 elderly Americans have to visit the emergency room each year as a result of falls related to their pets, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most are people 75 or older and cause life-altering fractures.

The report says that most of these falls result from several different things:
  • Tripping over pet toys.
  • Untrained and excited dogs jumping up.
  • Pets who sleep on the bed or at one's feet.
  • Tripping over a pet lurking around one's ankles.
  • Getting tangled in a leash.
There is, also, the issue of making plans for a pet who will outlive you, or still be active after you become too frail to properly care for it.

All these things aside, I think the benefits of pet ownership far, far out weigh these potential problems. As with most problems, there are solutions.

  1. Obedience training, quickly brings an unruly dog into line.
  2. One can always hire a dog walker (neighborhood teen) to provide exercise.
  3. Make arrangement for a friend or relative to adopt your pet should there have to be a parting.
  4. Scour the house for pet toy obstacles the same way you do for throw rugs and the like.
  5. Some long-term care facilities do allow pets.
  6. Be realistic and don't feel guilty if circumstances dictate that you need to find your beloved pets a new family. As we age, we have to accommodate the limitations imposed on us by the process. Some are wrenching and painful.

Our pets are important to us, providing companionship and unconditional love and there is no reason that we need to give up the pleasure they provide simply because of the infirmities of age. Their presence adds meaning to and probably prolong our lives and ability to stay active and involved. As I said, the benefits far out weigh whatever problems they create.

But, again, be realistic and plan and make arrangements for changes as you become older.