A house is not a home. This notion should be top-of-mind for any senior living community committed to offering a holistic lifestyle. The idea behind it is straightforward: A house is simply a building, whereas a home is where friendships and memories are cultivated. A home is filled with comfort, personality and – most importantly – a home is where valuable time is spent with loved ones, including pets.
This wasn’t lost on me when I became executive director at Friendship Village Tempe 11 years ago. I understood that moving to a retirement community is bittersweet for many seniors, as they often leave behind the home they’ve spent decades in. It’s usually where they’ve raised children and grandchildren, where they’ve developed relationships with neighbors, and where they’ve accumulated and stored cherished belongings. It’s why one of my team’s first major decisions was allowing pets on campus to offer a sense of companionship and comfort to residents during this new chapter of their lives.
The benefits of this move are even backed by science. According to the CDC, studies have shown that pets can help lower stress and increase happiness. The potential health benefits extend to decreased blood pressure and cholesterol due to an increase in physical activity. But make no mistake, our decision wasn’t easy. Despite all the potential advantages, we had plenty of reservations about cleanliness, noise, allergies and damage to property.
However, our decision has paid off tremendously and continues to be a big hit. It’s common for our pet friendliness to rank among the top reasons residents choose to move to our community, which is now home to more than 170 pets. Residents have even set up a Pet Owners Committee to ensure their furry pals are well taken care of. We’re equally committed to offering support to pet owners and are on the cusp of opening a dog park on our premises. You can practically feel the excitement about it in the air!
The groundswell of support through the years has reinforced a valuable tenet of our industry: Retirement communities can offer the best amenities and services, but it’s all in vain if seniors don’t feel at home. Being pet-friendly is just one of many ways Friendship Village caters to this need, but its impact is vast and invaluable. While allowing pets isn’t right for every senior living organization, I encourage communities to strongly consider it. Trust me, your residents will love and thank you for it.