sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

5 Reasons Why Adopting a Pet in Retirement May Be Right for You

By Molly Wisniewski October 10, 2023 Lifestyle

Socialization is fun, and many reports state that remaining active and social as older adults can keep us healthy and help us to live longer. But what happens when it’s no longer just as simple as hopping in the car and going?

Isolation is a genuine and even dangerous reality to the aging community. Without proactive solutions, many people could easily find themselves in this position. Adopting a pet can help you give back to your community and has the added benefits of keeping you company!

Are there benefits to getting a pet after retirement?

For those of us who want to gallivant around the world, adopting a dog or cat may not be the best option – unless you have someone who can watch them while you are away.

However, for those of us who don’t travel as often or who have a family that’s too far away, adopting a pet can have several benefits to our health and well-being. Moreover, it can provide us with a great excuse to go out and help others!

I don’t think it matters what age you are, being around a friendly pet animal warms the hearts of all of us. Whether you are a self-proclaimed “dog person,” “cat person,” or something in between, there is undoubtedly a friendly pet out there waiting for you.


Finding methods to give back to the community is a wonderful way we can spend our time in retirement. Adopting a pet to take to the local senior center, or even to an older neighbor you know could use some company, is a loving way you can give back to your community.

Adopting a Senior Pet

Senior pets are the least likely to be taken and will often spend their later years alone in shelters. It’s easy to understand why.

We quickly bond and become close to our pets, and the thought of losing them so soon after we’ve adopted them is hard to cope. However, we have an incredible opportunity to make their last few years the best of their lives, feeling loved and part of our home.

Senior dogs also have a gentle and calm temperament that makes them great therapy dogs when visiting your local senior center.


Humans are natural caregivers, and when we no longer have our children to care for at home, many of us continue to look for other ways to provide care. Caregiving brings us fulfillment and makes us feel good about our contribution to society. What better way to find purpose and to give care than to adopt a pet that needs your love?

A Good Excuse to Exercise

Adopting a dog is a great excuse and way to ensure you are remaining active. It’s too easy to let a few days go by without getting any exercise, but with a new pup, you’ll have a great reason to get outside for a walk. Nowadays, it’s not all that uncommon to take a cat out for a walk either.

Enhance Communication and Companionship for Empty Nesters

With children out of the house, many empty nesters report the need to get to know their partner again. Adopting a pet together is a great way to bridge this communication through coordination of care. It also creates a fun way to get outside and go for walks with one another.

The Process of Adopting a Pet

The adoption process can be quite lengthy, so be prepared to fill out paperwork and even come into the shelter for an interview. Animal shelters want to make sure that the adoption is the right fit on both sides, so not to risk you having to return the pet to the shelter.

The result, however, is worth the wait, and the new addition to your family and life opens many new opportunities that you may not have experienced otherwise.

The benefits are endless, and who can deny the affection of an animal that is so willing to receive your love and care? Of course, a pet is not the best option for everyone, and the decision to adopt (not shop!) shouldn’t be made without a bit of deliberation.

A great way to start is by visiting your local animal shelter and asking them some general questions you may have about the process. They can even help you determine the best type of breed and temperament of the pet that would help the transition into your home and family a bit easier.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you considered adopting a pet? Do you think it would be a welcomed responsibility in retirement? Or are there reasons why you wouldn’t want to adopt a pet? How do you plan on staying socially active in retirement? Please join the conversation below!

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

We travel a lot to see our children so now is not the time to adopt a dog. But we sure miss the love and companionship we had with our last dog!

Pam Lamp

So much companionship with a pet. And they encourage you to get out and about and see other people. They encourage you to move. Thanks for sharing.

Marin Shanley

Would like to add that, for those considering adopting a pet, it is crucial that we also think about who will care for them should we pass before the pet does. Far too many shelters receive animals whose owners have died and didn’t make arrangements for their care. This is terrifying for the animals and they might spend their remaining years abandoned or be euthanized. So please include them in your estate planning. <3


we adopted at senior shelter pet about 4 months ago. He is reported to be 8 years old. Please use caution in adopting a senior because there are reasons why they were given up. In my case, my dog has come to adore me and I enjoy our walks and getting to know neighbors who all have dogs. But the downside is that my dog is very aggressive towards all visitors. When my sister or sister-in-law come to visit, we have been forced to put our dog in the bedroom with the white noise sounds on during the several days my visitors are here and only take him out for walks. My dog is also very aggressive when he sees dogs that are bigger than he is, but he is fine with dogs his size or smaller. My dog tolerates my spouse but will growl at him if he gets close to the dog bowl or even close to me. My dog must have had a traumatic life before he came to live with us and vet prescribed medications have not helped to calm him. Occasionally, we want to travel, but now I feel we are stuck at home because I would not trust my little guy not to be aggressive with a dog walker or a dog sitter. We visited him before adoption and his behavior was fine but as he became comfortable with us, his aggressive side emerged. Therefore I would not recommend adopting a senior pet unless you know the reason why he was given up by the pervious owner. If he was a beloved pet and the owner passed away that would be a reason to adopt but be very cautious about adopting a senior dog with an unknown history.


Your dog should have been assessed for any signs of aggression by the shelter staff before he was given up for adoption. I suggest that you ask that he can undergo some social training by one of their staff or that you take him to a group training session. He just needs some understanding, patience and training to overcome his fears, which is usually what aggression is all about. Older dogs are usually placid unless they have been badly treated and it would be a shame to have to give him up.

Jan J

I’m glad you explained why shelters interview potential pet parents, they try very hard to make sure it’s a good fit so the animal isn’t returned. And I can’t stress enough the importance of not going to breeders. Please adopt from a shelter or rescue organization instead. If you prefer a specific breed, there are rescue organizations for every breed. There are way more animals than there are responsible owners and those that don’t get adopted are often euthanized. In a no-kill shelter they can be kept in cages warehoused for months or years which is not a good life. So please, no breeders. Also tell your friends and relatives that they shouldn’t allow their pets to breed. And it’s very rewarding to adopt a senior pet who has been in the shelter for a while. They are much mellower than kittens or puppies and they are very grateful to have a new home


You’re so on point! I’d like to add…on the flip side, because we are older, we offer the senior pet patience that they need. At this stage in your life, you can devote all of your attention developing a close and intuitive relationship with a fur baby like never before. It can become one of your most fulfilling and reciprocal relationships. My 2 kitty babies were from shelters because both were too much to handle for previous parents. And now, they’re so happy and loving to each other and me, because we all learned (um, I patiently gave space and tenderness over time and it paid off) from it. Many times it’s about kismet…timing, your gut feeling and your state of mind. Visit a shelter on a whim and ask yourself if this the right feeling. If not, leave and try again. When you feel it’s a match…you’ll know! I did and I hit the jackpot!

The Author

Molly Wisniewski has cared for older adults living with dementia for over ten years. She is a recent graduate of the Erickson School, UMBC where she received her M.A. in the Management of Aging Services. Her blog Upside to Aging is dedicated to sharing an alternative and more positive side to aging.

You Might Also Like