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Pet-friendly campus, pet-loving seniors inspire pet program

By: Country Meadows |

Animals enjoy living in a retirement community.

For many, one of the day’s biggest joys is opening the door to be greeted by wagging tails, wiggly behinds and whimpers of joy from our pets. At Country Meadows Retirement Communities, pets are welcome to move in with their human, and every campus has house pets for all residents to love and enjoy.

Pet Care Coordinator Sharron McIntyre enjoys time with one of her clients, Daisy.

Pets are an important part of life for many people, and science has proven they provide their owners with numerous health benefits. As we age it may become more difficult to care for pets due to health issues, or finding a reliable pet-sitter when on vacation or during a hospital stay.

Angel is a community cat at Country Meadows of Hershey.

To help, Country Meadows created a Pet Care Program for residents. Designated Pet Care Coordinators offer services including dog walking, filling bowls, changing litter boxes, brushing, coordinating grooming and veterinary visits, administering medications, exercise…nearly everything an animal needs to remain happy and healthy while living with his/her human.

Hershey campus Pet Care Coordinator/Housekeeping Manager Sharron McIntyre says her favorite part of the day is walking her canine clients. The residents appreciate the service. “They enjoy it. We’ve had some bad winters and they didn’t feel that they needed to go out in the cold and risk falling on the ice because I could walk the dogs.”

One Hershey campus resident, a dog mom, appreciates the service. “They help take her out and that sort of thing. At my age, I don’t think I could handle that by myself.”

Director of Community Life Brenda Kennedy enjoys snuggling with Elliott.

Services can be scheduled anytime—weekdays, weekends, holidays—whenever a pet needs care. And program costs are added to the resident’s monthly bill.

Just as co-workers create personalized services for residents, Pet Care Coordinators offer a care plan for pets and keep records for every animal residing on campus.

Animals can be a valuable tool in healthy aging. Scientists have completed numerous studies that explore the way animals contribute to better health in humans, particularly older adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society demonstrated that seniors who have pets tend to have better physical health and mental wellbeing than those that don’t. They’re more active, cope positively with stress, and have better overall health.

Bear and Albie work hard as Country Meadows ambassadors.

The responsibility of caring for an animal provides a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning and to be needed.

Daisy, a black and white Papillion dog, is important to her human mom who says, “I wouldn’t want to go without her. She’s a good girl.” Daisy rewards Mom with a kiss.

Another benefit to having an animal is that it helps the owner make friends. “Everybody loves Daisy. When they see her, even if they don’t know me, they are right there to see her and talk to me about her,” says the resident.

McIntyre says that she benefits from the program too. “Whenever I walk Daisy, [Daisy’s owner] always is overjoyed and happy about what I am doing for her. I can tell she really appreciates it and it’s rewarding for me too.”

When McIntyre returns with Daisy after their walk, the pooch greets her mom with a wagging tail, wiggly behind, and whimpers of joy.

“Just to see the smile on their faces is enough for me to do this. My dog is my baby and he means so much to me,” McIntyre says. “Being able to have a pet [at Country Meadows] is a great thing, and I know I would love it if someone helped me if I could no longer take care of him myself.”

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