If the Michigan senior you love is feeling lonely and blue after the long winter, a pet may be a happy solution! Pets can be great therapists. They are proven to help with everything from decreasing blood pressure to lowering rates of depression among our elders.

Health care organizations from hospitals to hospice programs incorporate pet therapy in to their daily routines.

But there are many factors to consider when choosing pets for seniors. From community restrictions on pets to budget issues and mobility challenges, there are a few issues to consider.

How to Find the Right Pet for an Older Adult in Michigan

  1. Budget: The financial impact of owning a pet is one consideration. While Great Danes or another large breed of dog may be your senior loved one’s favorite, they can be more expensive to feed. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the fluffy little dogs many people find so appealing.  A challenge with owning one of these dogs, however, is they tend to need frequent grooming. Depending upon what part of Michigan your senior loved one resides in, the costs for grooming can quickly add up. Before you make a decision on a pet, be sure to factor in all of the expenses your loved one will incur with each of the companions you are considering.
  2. Mobility: Our snowy, icy Michigan winters can make it hard for older adults to get outdoors to walk a pet each day. While dogs are known to help seniors improve their physical fitness, they can also put them at risk for a fall during the winter months. If your senior loved one doesn’t have a fenced yard or easy outdoor access, a dog may not be the best choice. By contrast, a cat doesn’t need (or often want!) to go outside when the weather is frightful.
  3. Community restrictions: Another factor to keep in mind is where your senior loved one lives. If they reside in a senior living community in Michigan, is it pet-friendly? Or if they call a condominium complex home, are there homeowner’s restrictions regarding pets?
  4. Easy maintenance: Is your aging family member able to care for a pet that might be higher maintenance? For example, a puppy might be a little too high energy for some seniors. An older dog might be calmer and easier to handle. A small bird or fish might be other options. Both are known to help decrease stress and agitation, especially for adults with Alzheimer’s.

Resources for Finding a Pet for a Senior

Finally, we thought it would be helpful to share a few good resources you can use when it comes time to choosing a furry or feathered friend for your Michigan senior loved one:

  • Petfinder is an organization that maintains a nationwide database of pets waiting to be adopted
  • The Michigan Humane Society can help connect you with pets big and small that are looking for a home