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Older Tennesseans find purpose fostering older pets

By John Michaelson, Public News Service • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:56 PM

NASHVILLE – For a rising number of Tennesseans, as they grow older and enter retirement and go through other major life changes, it’s not a time to slow down, but a chance to seek out meaning. 

That may include finding ways to give back and make a difference. 

Tara Shaver, interim communications director for AARP in Tennessee, said one way seniors can do so, but is often overlooked, is by providing a temporary home for a pet.

“They could foster a dog or cat for a short period of time and experience all the benefits of having a pet without the long-term commitment,” she said. “It’s a very big need in the animal nonprofit community. 

“They could save more lives and re-home more animals if they just had the fosters to help during that transition period.”

Studies have shown that having a pet can bring a number of health benefits to older adults, from lower blood pressure and cholesterol to a reduction in stress and depression.

Shaver also said the need for homes is especially great for older dogs that are often a good fit for older adults since the dogs don’t need to be taught new tricks.

“An older dog is usually housebroken and has some basic training skills under their belt,” she said. “They’re usually more adjusted and settled in, which is great for someone who may not have all the time and energy that a puppy requires.”

In addition, Shaver said if someone decides to give the dog they’re fostering a “fur-ever” home, many rescue organizations waive the fees for approved senior-to-senior adoptions. 

More information on fostering pets is online at the AARP in Tennessee website.

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