If you are planning to get older as healthy as possible, you would definitely benefit from lessons learned at this year’s Aging in America annual conference. While the focus of my attendance was on older adults and pets, I learned other valuable lessons.
The speakers of “Aging in Community with Pets: Insights, Innovations, & Advance Planning” consisted of Dianne McGill (past Executive Director of the Banfield Charitable Trust and now President of Senior Pet Care Resource Network), Rachel Duer (Program Specialist at Texas Department of Family and Adult Protective Services), Amy Shever (Director of 2nd Chance 4 Pets), and Keith Greene (Chief Membership Officer of Meals on WheelsTM America). They discussed resources from these and other organizations dedicated to assuring that older adults can live healthy and happy lives with their pets.
The session that Dianne McGill and I co-chaired was the “Older Adults and Pets Peer Group.” It was an informal session where attendees could come together and discuss anything about how pets impact the older adults they served. All who attended had pets, and we shared pictures of them. It was a nice ice breaker moment. Each had a slightly different reason why they were interested in the topic. The common link was the importance of the Human-Animal Bond and how pets can benefit people.
The voice from the veterinary and pet perspective was heard when I attended other sessions. One discussed city planning and making it livable for older adults (or any age for that matter). With nearly 70% of all households having a pet, city planners need to take into consideration that people have pets and there needs to be plans in place for them. Before I mentioned it, none considered pets in their plans. I hope they do now. Another was focused on surveys sent out to determine the needs of older adults. Not surprisingly, there were no questions about pets on the survey. Maybe now they will add a few key questions.
Besides pets, older adults who have trouble affording care for themselves and their pets was a concern of mine. The two sessions “Helping lower-income seniors maintain financial independence” and “Let’s talk senior poverty: What are we doing about it?” were extremely informative. Did you know that 50% of people 65 and older are within 200% of the federal poverty level ? Did you know that money received from the Social Security Administration are NOT allowed to be touched by collection agencies? Same with 401K and independent IRA accounts. Collection agents would prefer to have you think otherwise.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Anna M. van Heeckeren, MS, DVM
Founder, President, & CEO of One Health Organization