How Seniors for Seniors Programs Help Older Dogs and Adults

One of the biggest health and social challenges for older adults is loneliness, and one of the biggest challenges for older rescue and shelter dogs is finding a loving home. To solve these problems in the most adorable, tail-waggingly way possible, many animal rescue and volunteer groups around the country run Seniors for Seniors programs. In some cases, these programs make it easier for seniors to adopt older dogs. In others, volunteers bring rescued senior dogs to senior living communities to liven up dogs’ and residents’ days.How Seniors for Seniors Programs Help Older Dogs and Adults

If your parents are thinking about adopting a dog, or if they’d like regular playtime with a visiting dog, read on. We’ve sniffed out the details on several ways older dogs and older adults can make each other happier.

How Pets Can Improve Seniors’ Lives

Older adults who are up to daily pet care tasks and can afford veterinary care stand to benefit a lot from having a dog in their lives.

Regular walks provide good exercise and they help canines and humans stay connected to their neighborhood — there’s not a much better conversation starter than a friendly pup. Researchers have even found that regular walks strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners. That matters, because time spent with pets can lower stress hormones, ease loneliness and protect heart health in seniors.

All that said, it turns out that not just any dog will do. The ideal canine companion is one that doesn’t raise its owner’s stress levels or wear them out. That means senior dogs, not puppies, are usually a wiser choice for older adopters.

Senior Dogs: A Good Option for Older Adults

Just as parents of adult children can feel wiped out after a day of babysitting the grandkids, people who adopt a puppy after many years of living with an older dog – or not having a dog at all – may be surprised by how much physical attention, effort and money young pets need. House training, obedience training, puppy-proofing the home and yard and making frequent trips to the vet for well-puppy checkups and shots can be taxing, regardless of how adorable the pup is. As puppies grow, they also need supervision to keep them from teething on the furniture, and they sometimes need several walks each day to use all that youthful energy.

By contrast, many older dogs are already house trained and neutered, and their energy levels are usually lower than a puppy’s, so a walk or two a day is plenty. By adopting an older dog, your parents are not only giving themselves an easier to start to pet ownership, they’re also helping reduce the number of senior dogs who languish in shelters because so many adopters prefer puppies.

One potential downside to owning a senior dog is that age-related health problems may appear sooner rather than later. Modern veterinary care can do amazing things to help older pets live better, but that expertise can cost a lot. Because of this, it’s a good idea to look into pet health insurance, if it’s in your parents’ budget, before adopting an older dog.

Seniors for Seniors Dog Adoption Programs

To make the adoption process easier for seniors and to boost the number of older dogs who find good homes, some rescue groups have Seniors for Seniors programs to make those matches. For example, programs in New York, Texas and Washington are open to adopters age 60 and up. Some programs match adopters with pets age 7 and older, while others include pets as young as 4 in the senior category. Dozens of animal shelters across the country partner with the Pets for the Elderly Foundation to reduce or waive adoption fees for seniors, too. So even if there are not dedicated Seniors for Seniors adoption program near your parents, they may be eligible for special pet-adoption fees.

Although there aren’t as many programs that focus on senior cats, most shelters offer some sort of incentive to people who adopt older felines. For example, Austin Pets Alive in Texas waives the $75 adult-cat adoption fee for senior cats age 7 and up. If your folks are interested in adding an older cat to their family, it’s worth calling shelters in their area to find out if they have a similar discount or waiver.

Visiting Dogs for Senior Living Communities

If your parents live in a community that doesn’t allow residents to keep pets, or if they live in a pet-friendly senior community but don’t want the responsibilities of pet ownership, visiting pet programs can deliver the benefits of animal companionship without care duties. Some of these programs rely on senior dogs, like Silver Muzzle Cottage in Michigan, which provides rescue and hospice services to older dogs. Volunteers with Silver Muzzle Cottage’s Seniors for Seniors program visit senior communities with older rescue dogs – a way for assisted living residents to enjoy the benefits of pet time, while the dogs get to go on adventures, do a job and soak up affection.

If your parents are interested in having therapy pet visits in their senior community, talk to the social director about it. The American Kennel Club keeps a list of national and local therapy dog groups you can contact for more information. If you don’t see your parents’ area on the list, contact their nearest local animal shelter or dog rescue group to find out what’s available.

To learn about pet-friendly senior living communities near you, call at 1-800-805-3621.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


  1. Miller John January 11, 2018 Reply

    Surely a heartfelt article. I agree with you that pets are very important for seniors to stay happy. Even my grandmother who is in her 80s still takes great care of her kittens and is very happy in doing so. Thanks for sharing these amazing ideas.

  2. Louise Breland April 24, 2018 Reply

    I am relatively healthy woman living in Philadelphia, PA who is longing for a dog but I can’t afford the fees that are charged at the PSPCA. I would be an awesome pet owner, I’m lonely and I have a history of good pet ownership. Are there any programs that can help me in my area?

    • R &L Lively September 20, 2019 Reply

      I am in the same predicament . Did u find a program(s) . I am in North Central California if that makes any difference. Thanks

  3. Phyllis Karl April 5, 2019 Reply

    my name is Maggie I* am not a happy dog. I love my people and they love me, but they are getting to old to take care of me. I am about 9 yrs young, have never ever had an accident in the house. I am very friendly to people, but I probably need to not live with another dog. I sometimes growl, but not at people. just little dogs.
    Can anyone out there help me. Oh I live in Levittown Pa

  4. Sabrina Manaroo November 17, 2019 Reply

    I am a 62 year old who have problems with walking . I have two dogs and I have a hard time take in them outside . I have two children don’t want to help me take them out. I love them extremely but it is very hard for me.
    Please is there anyone who can help me with them,by just walking the! Please I want to keep them please?

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