Animals affect human emotions and physiology. Studies have shown that owning and handling animals benefit health significantly. The relevance of pets in the lives of senior citizens is no longer big news. Everyone knows that pets may help elderly owners live longer, more enjoyable lives. It has been demonstrated that independently-living seniors who have pets tend to be more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. (May 1999 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society) Another study showed that elderly pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure than their contemporaries without pets.
Constant companionship is the best part of seniors’ owning a cat or dog. A Purina survey also revealed pet ownership may contribute to a more mobile lifestyle: 45 percent say they became more active after adopting a pet, and 26 percent of the female respondents said they lost weight.
I’m a pushover for a book with a photograph of a dog on the cover. I grabbed two on the library’s new books shelves. Katie; Up and Down the Hall; The true story of how one dog turned five neighbors into a family. Alas, author Glenn Plaskin resisted doing right by poor Katie, who lived painfully long. Fortunately, Pukka; The pup after Merle, by Ted Kerasote, was on the shelf. Merle was Pukka’s predecessor. Read Merle’s Door; Lessons from a freethinking dog.
Question: If having a pet is so great, how come so many senior citizens who are able to live independently (a phrase frequently encountered in the housing quest) and who love dogs, cats, birds, etc., or they “always used to have one,” don’t have a pet now? How come? Or, put it this way… which senior citizens do have pets?
One consideration is policy. Mainly, the landlord’s and the senior center’s pet policies. Recently, when I inquired about a senior center’s pet policy, the phone-answerer was stumped. After I put my inquiry into basic basic, he asked others, not bothering to cover the phone, and got back to me with “Service dogs we allow but no other pets.” Click.
Senior centers are having pet fairs and pet shows. The Plum [Pennsylvania] Senior Center Pet Show and Parade in June was held as a renovation project benefit.
I recall a disabled senior who brought her companion, a small dog, to the senior center and parked him in a carrier outside by the front door. She was able to get a Section 8 studio in a senior/disabled housing project. She and her companion are long gone, but considerable verbiage has been inserted into the House Rules that all tenants must sign. Pets are not allowed in the building unless the resident has signed a copy of the Pet Policy. No pets of guests or others are allowed into the building or on the common areas. If you are found keeping a pet without permission, it will be grounds for removal of the pet and/or termination of tenancy. All pet agreements, registration cards, health certificates, and pet deposits must be completed before the pet is allowed in the building. Pet sitting is not allowed. Residents are financially responsible for all damages and personal injuries related to his/her pet. If management determines that the pet is an annoyance or nuisance, the owner may be given written notice to have the pet removed form the premises.
“Pets are allowed” at Strawberry Creek Lodge (Berkeley, California). A Lodger friend has three cats.
The Dog Law web site, at DogLaw.HugPug.com, is helpful. Also check the Nolo (formerly known as Nolo Press) website, especially its Every Dog’s Legal Guide.
Tenants in federally assisted housing for the elderly or handicapped are allowed by law to own pets. This rule applies even if the federal government does not own the rental housing. Owners and managers may place reasonable regulations on pets, after consulting with tenants. The agency can charge pet deposits or fees, and can, for example, restrict the size, weight, or number of pets. Contact a local HUD office or your county or community Housing Authority to find out if a particular rental is covered.
Several states have also taken action. In most states, only government-subsidized housing is subject to special rules allowing pets. But in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and New Jersey, elderly or disabled tenants have rights to keep pets in either public or private housing.
There may also be breed restrictions. Bottom line seems to be if the management makes reasonable accommodations and the pet still creates problems, the tenant may be evicted.
Many elderly people would not move to better housing if it meant giving up their pets. Researchers talked to 2,300 older people in Evanston (a North Shore suburb of Chicago, median income $56,140.). Nearly one-third owned pets. Of the pet owners, 86% said pet ownership dictated where they lived.
“Pet friendly” seems to mean that pets are a consideration when renting. Pets in Need lists pet-friendly rental housing in San Mateo County and Palo Alto, California. "Pet security deposits" are in addition to the basic security deposit. Some apartments also charge "pet rent" which tacks an additional amount onto the basic rent. There are lists of retirement mobile home parks and housing for senior citizens that are said to be pet friendly. “Cat or dog under 40 pounds OK Resident must be able to care for pet $25 extra monthly rent” and “Cat or lap-size dog OK Executive Director must meet the pet $500 security deposit Resident must be able to care for pet” are typical.
Another consideration for pet owners is The Loss of a Pet, the title of a book by Wallacem Sife. Dr. Sife recognizes the special responsibility involved with pets and seniors. “Single senior citizens as pet owners tend to be extremely affectionate, even doting on the animal. A pet shares the senior’s loneliness and the changes taking place in her or his ability to do things. A person’s health and mobility may have deteriorated, but pets love and depend on their owners as much as before. As hearing, sight and general tone diminish, so may one’s motivation to savor life. Eventually, when the pet as well shows signs of aging or health deterioration, the owner’s dependency is increased. This owner now must become even more of a provider and caretaker. Then death comes to the pet, [which] can lead to depression and deterioration in the older person, unless there is some other loving and stabilizing influence in that person’s life.”
“Ensure lifetime care for your pet” urges the California charity 2nd Chance 4 Pets (2ndchance4pets.org). This membership 501(c)3 organization, based in Los Gatos, California, instructs people how to provide for their pet's care after they are gone. There’s a “Donate Now” button.
Cost is a factor for many senior citizens in getting and maintaining a pet. The era of a visit to an animal shelter (“the pound”) where one selected, rather than paid for, a cat or dog headed for euthanasia is pretty much a thing of the past. The City of Berkeley’s Animal Care Services’ adoption fees range upwards from $10. (rodents) to $100. (dogs); cats are $75.00. All cats and dogs adopted from this shelter will be neutered or spayed before going home as one’s new pet. In most cases, once the adoption papers have been completed, the new cat or dog will be transported to a vet by the Animal Shelter, where s/he can be picked up. The cost for this procedure is included in the adoption price. The BACS 60/6/60 Plan: If you are 60+ and youadopt an animal who is 6+, you can get a 60% discount on the adoption fee. For information about low-cost veterinary clinics and BACS’ Low Cost Spay & Neuter Voucher Program: 510-981-6600.
In honor of National Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat-Month, sixty-eight year old Joy Behar hosted the Fee-Waived Cat Adoption Drive at the ASPCA Adoption Center in Manhattan in June. This event encouraged New York City residents to adopt free of charge. The adoption fee was waived for cats over one year old. The ASPCA “Free Over Three” cat adoption policy remains in effect all year long, allowing free adoption of any feline over the age of three.
The Seattle Humane Society provides services to keep people and pets together in King County, Washington state. Low-income senior citizens can receive a supplemental supply of pet food. The Sacramento, California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animalswaives adoption fees for seniors age 60+ who adopt an animal age five and over.
An all-volunteer nonprofit that helps low-income seniors in the Dallas, Texas area hang onto their pets is Seniors' Pet Assistance Network. (seniorspets.org) SPAN's goal is to keep the human-pet bond intact by working with veterinarians or donating food. In 2009, it added a pet food pantry. "We're not a rescue, we don't find homes for pets, we don't offer spay and neuter. We help with basic veterinary care. Shots, flea and heartworm meds, and clients can apply for the food delivery route." One local veterinarian gives AARP members a 10 percent discount. Small groups such as SPAN carry much of the load around the country.
Banfield Charitable Trust (banfieldcharitabletrust.org, 503-922-5801), a Portland, Oregon nonprofit, helps keep vulnerable populations united with their pets by funding grants for other pet charities that focus on programs that keep seniors and pets together. Banfield CEO McGill believes that “seniors go without food or other necessities to pay for the care of their pets. It's not so much surrendering the pets that's a problem, it's seniors going without that's the larger problem." Read “Finding ways to help elderly keep their pets at home,” by William Hageman. Chicago Tribune, August 10, 2011.
Studies have consistently shown the health benefits of pet ownership. Purina's Pets for Seniors program reports working with animal welfare organizations nationwide to offer free pet adoption to qualified seniors over 60. More information is at petsforpeople.com.
So… which senior citizens are able to have pets and do have pets? It would seem that the amount of personal income influences most considerations.
Berkeley Paratransit Services is moving to the Aging Services Division. (Contact is North Berkeley Senior Center.) Taxi scrip is provided to income-qualified Berkeley residents age 70+ and to those with disabilities. The Berkeley City Council has voted to allow taxi fare increases. Taxi scrip will be worth less than its current value. Contact your Councilmember. Urge that taxi scrip value be increased accordingly.
Alameda County Library and Contra Costa Library systems are making available to their patrons free and discounted passes to many Bay Area Museums. For details, visit discover.aclibrary.org or discover & gopasses@ ccclib.org. Or inquire about Discover & Go the next time you’re in the Albany branch of the AC Library; bring your library card. Berkeley Public Library is not a part of the Alameda County Library system; they are, however, interested in the Discovery program.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: September and October 2011. Call to confirm, date, time and place. Readers are welcome to share news of events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday. Sept. 14. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Also Sept. 21 and 28.
Wednesday, Sept. 14. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Music Dept., Hertz Concert Hall. John Kapusta, voice; Nicholas Mathew, piano.
Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 14 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Cultural Events class includes 2 Berkeley Repertory Theatre performances. Minimum enrollment of 15 required. To reserve a seat, visit the Office or call 510-747-7506.
Wednesdy, Sept. 14 . 6:30 P.M. – 8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshops. Free. Albany branch of the Alameda County library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.
Thursdays, beginning Sept. 15, 10 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center 1155
Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Computer Basic Skills class. Nancy D’Amico, Volunteer
Instructor. Sign up in advance.
Thursday, Sept. 15. 7 P.M. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Av. Join award-winning, local cookbook author, Marie Simmons for a talk and tasting. Her latest book is Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipes that Make a Meal. 510-526-7512.
Thursday, Sept. 15. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library, West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270. Also Sept. 22.
Friday, Sept. 16, 12 Noon – 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Old Time Music Convention. UC,B 125 Morrison Hall. Musicians and dancers will demonstrate their art and speak about their experience. Moderated by Prof. Tamara Roberts. Co-sponsored with the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention. Free admission.
Friday, Sept. 16, 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. 14th Annual Senior Resource Fair. Presented by San Leandro Senior Services. San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14 St. 510-577-3462.
Saturday, Sept. 17, 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.
Saturday, Sept. 17, 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Willard Park, Berkeley, CA. Outdoors. Free. 415-285-1717. Also Sept 18.
Tuesday, Sept. 20. 12:30P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers General Meeting: "Mass Incarceration, The New Jim Crow." Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. at Geary. # 38 bus.
Wednesday, Sept. 21. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Music Dept., Hertz Concert Hall. Faculty Recital: Michael Orland, piano.
Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 1 P.M. Gray Panthers meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center,
2001 Hearst, corner MLK. 510-548-9696 and 486-8010.
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging meets in a senior center, probably North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK. #25 AC bus stops at the NBSC. Phone to confirm location. 510-981-5190. 510-981-5200.
Thursday, Sept. 22. 9 A.M. – 5 P.M. Albany Senior Center Open House. Food, entertainment. 846 Masonic Av. 510-524-9122.
Friday, Sept. 23 Final day to vote for North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council members. 1901 Hearst, corner MLK. 510-981-5190.
Friday, Sept. 23. 11 A.M. – 12 Noon California Telephone Access Program Deaf & Disabled Telecommunications program. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. 510-981-5170.
Saturday, Sept. 24. 10 A.M. OWL San Francisco General Meeting: Issues on the November SF ballot. Meeting co-sponsored by Senior Action Network and AAUW. 870 Market St. between 4th & 5th Sts. Market St. buses and Powell St. BART. 415-989-4422 email@example.com
Sunday, Sept. 25. 1:30 P.M. Book Into Film: The Last Station. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Registration required: 510-981-6236.
Monday, Sept. 26. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 ArlingtonAve. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with brief discussion following. New members welcome. 510-524-3043.
Tuesday, Sept. 27, 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. “Getting the Most From Your Doctor’s Visit.” Lecture by Patient Advocate Linda Garvin, RN, MSN. Register in the Mastick Office or call 510-747-7506.
Tuesday, Sept 27, 3 P.M. Tea & Cookies Book Club. Central Berkeley Public Library.
Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read.
Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group. 6510 Stockton. Come to one or all discussions. Let the Great World Spin, novel by Colum McMcCann. 510-526-7512.
Tuesday, Sept. 27. 7 P.M. Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls, talking about her upcoming book. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St. at Taylor, # 1. 27 buses.
Wednesday, Sept. 28. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. University Symphony Orchestra - David Milnes, conductor. Ligeti: Lontano. Korngold: Violin Concerto, Ernest Yen, soloist. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Morrison's Song of Solomon. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 510-526-3720 x 16.
Monday, Oct. 3. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Public Library. (510) 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 17 and 24.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Felicia Chen, soprano; Daniel Alley, piano. Jason Yu, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Balance Your Walk with the Alexander Technique. Lenka Fejt, certified teacher. This six-part workshop on the Alexander Technique has begun. Prepaid registration fee of $60. required. 510-747-7506. Also Oct. 12.
Wednesday, Oct. 5 - 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library. (510) 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.. Also Oct. 12 and 19.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 6 P.M. – 8 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.
Thursday, Oct. 6. 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. Lavender Seniors of the East Bay’s 5th Annual Aging in Place, Symposium and Resource Fair for Older Adults. Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Blvd., San Leandro. Refreshments, entertainment by Stagebridge Senior Theater Company. Free. Dan Ashbrook at 510-667-9655 Ext 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, Oct. 6. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library South branch. 1901 Russell. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 13.
Wednesday, Oct. 12. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Andrea Wu, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 12. 6:30 P.M. – 8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshops. Free. Albany branch of the Alameda County library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.
Thursday, Oct. 13. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 20 and 27.
Saturday, Oct. 15. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. (510) 2090 Kittredge. 510- 981-6100.
Tuesday, Oct. 18. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers General Meeting: Program to be announced. Location: Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. at Geary, # 38 bus. 415-552-8800. email@example.com, http://graypantherssf.igc.org/
Wednesday, Oct. 19. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. University Gospel Chorus - Another Day's Journey. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 19. 1:30 P.M. At the San Lorenzo branch of the Alameda County Library, 395 Paseo Grande 510-670-6283. Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist Mariaelena Lemus will address questions and present information specifically for older adults. This program repeats at the other branches through December. No Reservations Required. Free. For more information call Library Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491.
Thursday, Oct. 20. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270. Also Oct. 27.
Tuesday, Oct. 25. 3 - 4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. (510) 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.
Wednesday, Oct. 26. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Tony Lin, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Roman Fever, Edith Wharton’s short story. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 510-526-3720 x 16.
Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 26/Sacramentoand 27/South San Francisco, 2011 . "Dementia Care Without Drugs - A Better Approach for Long-term Care Facilities" symposia about misuse of psychotropic drugs as treatment for dementia, difficulty in managing dementia treatment, and non-pharmacological approaches to care. CANHR staff attorney Tony Chicotel presentation, "Stop Drugging Our Elders!" California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform http://www.canhr.org. 415-974-5171. Fax 415-777-2904.