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In Search of a Forever Home

When Madalyn Benoit adopted Slinky from KittyKind, she knew he was an older cat with just a few years left in him. Yet, she couldn't bear the thought of Slinky going through his last days alone. For two years, Slinky gave Madelyn joy and happiness, and in return she gave him the comfort and love that he needed.

After Slinky passed away, Madalyn approached KittyKind with the idea to create a program especially for older Americans to help them find a companion like she had in Slinky. From that conversation just a few months ago, Seniors for Seniors was created and the first adoption event was held in April at Union Square in New York City.

KittyKind's Seniors for Seniors is an opportunity for older Americans to meet aging cats in search of a forever home to call their own—a home full of love and companionship.

The first Seniors for Seniors adoption event was a success, with many older cats finding homes that day. People who had already adopted were on-hand to talk about their experiences and give advice to those interested in opening their homes to the animals.

"All it took was Madalyn's letter, and the program came together," said Ann Simkins, events coordinator for KittyKind. "Some who attended the event from out of town took the idea back to their local shelters in hopes of organizing a similar event."

According to Madalyn, she wanted to give another cat the love and attention she had given Slinky. So, the day of the event, she adopted a 12-year-old cat. Her friend, Valerie, adopted 16-year-old Luther that day as well.

"The 60-plus population is an untapped resource in many ways," said Miriam Hibel, board member and adoption representative for KittyKind. "They have more time to provide companionship to animals, Hibel continued. "The animal puts a spark in their lives, and the benefits are absolutely mutual."

"Homes with older adults are great places for dogs or cats going through the turmoil of losing their homes and staying in a shelter," said Mary Leake Schilder, public affairs manager for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) outside of Seattle. "The homes may be quieter, and people may be home more often to help these animals get acclimated to their new surroundings."

PAWS takes in animals of all ages and works to find them their forever homes. Most often, older dogs and cats are surrendered when their guardians pass away, or if the dynamics of the families they have lived with most of their lives change and a pet no longer fits in the picture. "Through no fault of their own, these older animals find themselves looking for a new home," Leake Schilder said. "We are here to help find the perfect match."

Leake Schilder also noted that homes with older adults are a great fit for animals who don't necessarily need housetraining, and who may have a lower energy level than that found in younger pets.

For those who may want the companionship of an animal but aren't quite ready for the responsibility of adoption, foster care may be the way to go. "Foster homes are an essential component of a rescue group," Leake Schilder explained.

Which is just what Senior Animals In Need Today Society (SAINTS) in British Columbia focuses on. Rather than finding forever homes, SAINTS looks for permanent foster homes to help care for their animals, which include dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, horses, chickens, pigs, cows, goats, and a llama.

"SAINTS covers the costs of medical care and other special expenses for fostering their animals. "By permanently fostering one of our animals, our foster parents ensure that the animals are well taken care of," program director Carol Hine said.

Whether you choose to adopt or foster an older animal, you'll find that the benefits are priceless. The love and companionship that comes from sharing your life with a four-legged friend bring more joy than words can say.

Planning for the Unexpected

For anyone adopting an animal, regardless of age, it is absolutely crucial to have a contingency plan in place in case something should happen to the caretaker. The Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA have a wealth of information to help plan for the unexpected.

Health Benefits of Living with a Pet

"Animals provide health, social and psychological benefits," says Mary Leake Schilder of PAWS. Those benefits include companionship, as well as exercise and social interaction. "When you're out walking your dog, you're bound to strike up a conversation with someone," continued Leake Schilder.

According to several studies cited by the HSUS on pets and people 50 and older, contact with animals can lower blood pressure and decrease stress. And as a result of increased exercise, reduce bone loss, lower cholesterol levels and improve blood circulation.

Dr. Judith Seigel, a University of California epidemiologist, found that among 1,000 Medicare recipients, 40 percent of older Americans who owned dogs sought the services of a doctor far less often than those who had no animal companions. 

Find Your Animal Companion!

Many animal rescue organizations, including PAWS, offer a price break on adoptions. Check with your local shelter to find out if they offer a special plan for older citizens.

Looking for a specific breed? There are many rescue groups who specialize in a specific breed. A quick Google search will find organizations in your area. Or, visit www.petfinder.com.

The Purina Pets for Seniors program, funded by the Purina Corporation, helps people age 60-plus adopt pets from nearly 200 shelters across the country for a small cost.

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation also works to connect older Americans with aging animals. The organization works with shelters  across the country.

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