at The Carlisle Palm Beach senior living community in Lantana.
By Arden Moore
Inside The Carlisle Palm Beach senior living community in Lantana, you expect to see activities like people playing cards, swimming laps in the pool and learning to paint with oils. But also inside generating smiles, sparking conversation and providing loyal companionship are the dogs and cats belonging to residents such as Agnes Simon.
Simon feels much younger than her 83 years, and she gives much of this credit to her poodle-Pekinese mix, Benji.
“I love everything about him and he is very spoiled,” she says. “He listens to everything I say and I definitely think my health is better because of him and Harmony, my black cat. If you love your dog or cat, this is the place to be, for sure.”
Recently, Simon celebrated Benji’s 11th birthday by inviting residents with dogs to attend a paw-ty (that’s how it was spelled on the invitations) complete with dog-safe cookies, ice cream and, of course, party hats for the seven or so canines in attendance.
Karen Delgado, director of resident programming, says that pet parades, doggy fashion shows, play dates and visits from certified therapy dogs also occur on a regular basis inside The Carlisle. Cats and dogs less than 20 pounds are welcomed four-legged residents.
“Residents who have dogs have seemed to network with one other,” says Delgado. “Pets are so therapeutic. They give unconditional love and also give our seniors a reason to care for another — their pet. Some here who are alone get a lot of comfort from their pets.”
It’s true. Dogs, cats and other companion animals bonded to you don’t care if you’re tall or short, young or old. They unleash love easily and consistently.
One of my favorite ageless friends is Flo Frum. She helped deliver a litter of five healthy miniature schnauzer pups four months shy of her recent 92nd birthday. She lives in Oceanside, Calif., with a senior friend and together they thrive, sharing their home with the momma dog, Tyler, and one of the pups they kept, the spirited and friendly Tiny.
“I’ve had dogs all my life and don’t intend to stop now that I’m 92,” declares Frum. “Tyler and Tiny give me so much love and they make me laugh and smile. That is priceless.”
Seniors like Agnes and Flo recognize that the secret to longevity and maintaining good health may be just a tail wag or a purr away.
Clinical studies sponsored by prestigious places such as the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University confirm what pet lovers have always known: Companion animals boost their people emotionally, physically and mentally. Studies indicate pets have the ability to elevate our levels of serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good body chemicals.
One vital way to return this unconditional love is to have a plan in place in the event your pet outlives you. Spearheading this effort on a national scale is Amy Shever, founder and director of 2nd Chance for Pets (www.2ndchance4pets.org), a nonprofit, all-volunteer group that provides information and solutions — including pet trusts — to help ensure pet owners have “lifetime care” in place for their pets.
The group’s goal is to reduce the number of beloved pets relinquished and euthanized each year due to the death or disability of their owners.
“If every responsible pet owner had a written plan in place with a named caregiver, we could save 500,000 pets a year,” says Shever. “Regardless of age, every responsible pet owner needs to have a plan of care, should their pets outlive them.”
Key points in including pets in your will and estate planning include:
• Choose the best plan. Your choices include a pet trust or naming care instructions for your pet in your will or estate documents.
• Choose caregivers now who agree to care for your pet if you die or are not physically able. Carry an emergency pet ID card with you that contains the names and contact numbers for these designated caregivers.
• Create a written plan that states exactly how you want your pet to be cared for, including the type of food, grooming and other activities.
• Provide money for your pet’s care. And if your pet dies with money left in the fund, select where that money should go — say an individual or a pet charity.
• Talk about it. Let trusted friends and family members know where your trust or other document is and let them know your care plans for your surviving pets.
“Having these care instructions makes it so much easier for whoever is taking care of the pet if the owner is in the hospital or nursing home,” says Shever. “This makes this transition so much easier, especially on the pets.
“We even encourage giving copies of your pet estate plans to your veterinarian. Consider laminating a copy and keep it in a place where people can easily find it in your home.”
I urge you to “sniff” around the www.2ndchance4pets.org site; it has plenty of resources to help you protect your pets should they outlive you.
Arden Moore, founder of www.FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave! show on www.PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.