Spring Hills Morristown Assisted Living, Morristown, NJ, observed National Spoil Your Pet Day on Saturday by hosting members of the greater community and their dogs.

Residents helped attendees make dog beds from decorated pillowcases, collected donations to help the animals at a local shelter, and made treats for the dogs to take home, among other activities.

“Pets play a meaningful role in our lives at any age but can be especially beneficial for older adults by providing constant friendship, easing anxiety and encouraging daily exercise and engagement,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., a gerontology expert and caregiver advocate at Home Instead.

In a recent survey of adults aged 65 or more years by the home care provider, 70% of pet owners said their animals are a deciding factor in where they will live as they age, and 82% of them said they would not consider moving to a senior living community without their animals. Results were released Tuesday.

Surveyed pet owners said unconditional love was the No. 1 benefit of their pet ownership. Other perks, they said, were feeling loved, having a purpose and having someone to talk to. Poll results also suggest that older adults can gain positive feelings when visiting with pets owned by family, friends or neighbors, according to Home Instead.

“While owning a pet full time isn’t an option for everyone, there are many other ways to interact with animals without taking on the additional responsibilities and commitment,” Hogan said.

The Home Instead survey, conducted in April, included responses from 1,000 older adults aged 65 or more years, 90% of them living in the United States and the remainder living in Canada. Forty percent of participants said they owned pets, 30% said they did not own pets but interacted with animals regularly, and 30% said they neither owned an animal nor interacted with pets regularly.

Dogs (62%) and cats (55%) were by far the most commonly owned animals among poll participants, although other pets included birds and fish (9%) as well as small mammals such as gerbils (2%) and reptiles such as lizards and turtles (1%).

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