Guide for aging in place with pets in Allegheny County

Aging and pet guide cover page


This Resource Guide is a product of the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Social Work, Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education (HPPAE) students, alumni, and faculty and guest consultants. HPPAE is a fellowship program designed to enhance leadership skills in gerontology. Every year the Hartford students develop and implement a community based project. In 2019/20, the BASW students identified a need for a resource guide for adults aging in place in the community with their pets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of our companion animals. Their presence during our period of quarantine was a source of comfort and companionship. For older adults living alone, their pets were the only other living being many saw during quarantine. Their pets are “members of their family” and beloved companions, helping to reduce social isolation, creating routines and giving purpose. But there are challenges in having a pet when you are older—financial concerns of caring for a pet on a fixed income, the need for food and veterinary costs and housing. There are also other concerns about how to care for a pet if the older adult must be hospitalized, and how to provide for a pet in the future.

This resource guide has several sections. The introductory section is an overview of the benefits and challenges while the second section is geared to family members and professionals providing guidance for working with older adults around several human-animal interactions. Section three includes questions that can be included in an assessment and important legal information. The final section is a list of resources and appendices: food, housing, veterinary services, and counseling that the we believe to be critical to keeping older adults and their companion animals at home together.

This guide can be copied and distributed in sections or as one document. It is copyrighted but free and open access thanks to the generosity of the University of Pittsburgh under a creative commons license. Initial duplication costs have been paid for by donations to the Hartford Program and the HPPAE is supported by The Fine Foundation. We hope that this guide useful and we welcome your comments (

The contributors dedicate this resource guide to all of the older adults who love and cherish their animal companions and to all the animals that we have been lucky to have as part of our lives.