Senior Communities House Dementia Patients, Cats, Other Pets

Administrators attribute seniors' health gains to animals' presence.

Posted: January 19 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Courtesy Silverado Senior Living
A Silverado resident interacts with one of the senior living community's cats.
Those in charge of operations at Silverado Senior Living’s 16 communities have written a manual of rules for the residents — rules that require at least one cat and one dog for every 25 residents, one bird for every four residents and one aquarium for every 40 seniors.

Beyond the 45 cats, 56 dogs and more than 400 fish and birds living with the seniors at the communities, a few extra pets have been added to the mix including a kangaroo, two miniature horses, two pot-bellied pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Founded in 1996, Silverado Senior Living cares for those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementias at locations in California, Texas and Utah.

“We all know that pets provide the affection and unconditional love that can brighten seniors’ lives,” said Loren Shook, Silverado’s president and CEO. “But at Silverado, we understand that the positive impact of animals can go even deeper. For example, we involve our residents in caring for the animals on a daily basis.

“Helping to walk, groom and feed them increases our residents’ feelings of self-esteem and worth because they feel they are being productive. This is tremendously important, because it’s so easy for those with memory impairment to feel helpless and unworthy and become depressed as a result.”

Shook attributes some of the residents’ health gains to the animals’ presence, including those who have regained the ability to walk, talk and feed themselves, as well as those who have recovered from depression.

Most of the animals at the facilities have been adopted from rescue groups, and the organization spends approximately $500,000 a year for their care.

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Reader Comments

Kathy    Cocoa Beach, FL

11/10/2010 12:21:08 PM

Wonderful article. Senior's in these facilities can benefit so very much.

debby    oxford, NC

1/21/2008 12:49:22 AM

i always felt that animals make your life better

Lillian    Eugene, OR

1/20/2008 9:43:43 PM

I think this is great for Seniors to be involved as it makes them feel needed and useful. They have a reason to keep living.

laura    cleveland, OH

1/20/2008 8:26:50 PM

I love this idea. We should put cats everywhere, including office buildings and factories. They release tension and keep pests out!

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