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CANA Aged Care Survey results reveal need for urgent action to keep older people and their pets together

3 min read
Aged Care

A host of studies demonstrate how pets offer a myriad of physical and mental health benefits for people, such as reducing stress, providing companionship, encouraging social interactions and more.  

This is true particularly for older adults who often face loneliness and isolation, and rely on their furry, finned or feathered friends to thrive whether they are living at home or in a residential aged care setting. 

Yet, despite 86% of older adults experiencing improved mental and physical health with pets in aged care settings, only 18% of aged care facilities consider allowing residents to keep a companion animal, according to national animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia’s 2023 Aged Care Survey: Status of Pets in Aged Care 

“While we’ve always recognised the benefits of owning a pet, our survey shows the Australian government and aged care providers have been slow to understand the enduring value of the human-animal bond for older people,” said Trish Ennis, Companion Animal Network CEO.  

When it comes to older adults living at home, 91% of those with pets who receive a government-funded Home Care Package (HCP) do not receive support to help to care for their companion animal, according to survey results. 

Through its Pet-Friendly Aged Care division, Australia CAN work to preserve the bond between people and their beloved pets by keeping them together for as long as it provides the best health outcome for the animal and its owner. 

“There’s often a catastrophic emotional harm caused when older people are forced to give up their pets upon moving into an aged care home and resulting in their much-loved animals being surrendered to shelters across the country,” added Ennis.  

In-home Aged Care – urgent need for pet care support 

According to Ennis, CANA’s Aged Care report also reveals older people who depend on in-home assisted living and the daily companionship of their animals lack the government support they desperately need. 

“People are putting their lives on the line when they refuse to move into aged care because they can’t bring their pet with them,” she added. 

The survey reveals 61% of older adults live alone, and 74% of older adults with pets say their animals provide companionship and reduce loneliness.  

Whilst 40% of older adults who receive an HCP have pets, only 9% of these pet owners receive pet care support, such as walking their dog (64% need help) and taking their pet to the vet (62% need help).   

“Our survey shows there is an urgent need to support pet ownership for older Australians who choose to live independently,” said Ennis.  

“Increasing the number of pet-friendly in-home aged care support will also help to prevent animals from being euthanised or surrendered to shelters and maximise the physical and emotional health of animal-loving older people.” 

What are the barriers to pet ownership? 

According to CANA’s Aged Care Survey, 60% of people say the main barriers to pet ownership are a lack of education among aged care providers on the benefits of pet ownership and a lack of funding to facilitate design changes to accommodate pets being a major challenge.   

“Education and knowledge about benefits of pet ownership and accommodating pets are the key factors to allaying fears and opening up opportunities,” added Ennis.  

“The inclusion of pets is a great business model as aged care facilities and home care companies that include pets are in greater need and their clients and communities are happier and healthier.” 

Australia CAN work closely with the residential facilities that allow clients to bring their pets with them and offer free resources, including pet-related policies, guidelines and documents, for aged care providers, support agencies and organisations to manage and care for pets in aged care settings. 

“As our population ages, solutions to maintaining a high quality of life include finding ways to help ageing people retain their pets,” says Ms Ennis. 


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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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