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Here’s why friends and pets are ingredients for a happy retirement

retired with dog and grandchild resize

Retirement, once you’ve adjusted to the change, is an exciting time filled with opportunity to relax and, at the risk of sounding like a cliché, do everything you’ve been wanting to do for years. You are downsizing from your large, expensive-to-run family home with large garden to a beautiful lock-up-and-go lifestyle of convenience. You can finally pursue a second career, travel (resting easy that your home is safe) or attend all of your grandson’s cricket games.

Only two things could possibly make this scenario more attractive: pets and friends. The valued relationship between human and pet, and being surrounded and supported by friends, is never as important as it is for retirees who might be far from family or even those who have lost their circle of lifelong friends over the years.

The positive impact of petsdog with retired people

Lesley de Klerk, founder of Paws for People Therapy Dogs, explains that the benefits of this relationship become especially relevant in cases where owners have taken ill. These individuals have a reason to be up and about, outside walking their dogs with other community members.

“The impact goes way further than just companionship – it is good for the wellbeing of the pet owner, too. Studies have even shown that individuals who interact with our therapy dogs use less pain medication,” adds de Klerk.

According to Dr Mareanna le Roux, lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University and chair at Pets as Therapy (PAT) South Africa, the benefits of a loving relationship with dogs are too many to mention, and even in frail care cases it has been proven to make a significant difference. “Having a pet, and the constant companionship, goes a long way in improving the standard of living for any human being,” she says. “Making the transition to a retirement community can be hard, but even more so if you have to do it without a beloved pet.”

The challenge for retirees who are scaling down and moving to a retirement community, is finding one which is pet friendly, since a pet-friendly policy in retirement estates is, sadly, not a given in South Africa. Noise from barking dogs and screeching birds, and the nuisance of cats roaming other peoples’ homes are among the reasons provided for a blanket no-pets policy.

Thandazile Mtetwa, clinical psychologist and Lecturer at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Psychiatry, says companionship in old age is vital – regardless of whether this is with an animal or a human.

Celebrating community in retirement

This is one of the reasons why a retirement community like Celebration Retirement Estate, made up of new and existing friends, is so special. Situated opposite the Northgate Mall in Johannesburg, it is Central Developments’ 12th retirement development, a track record which has given the developer enough insight to realise the value of pets and a sense of community to its retired residents.

“We do allow small breed dogs in the homes and cottages in our retirement estates because we realise how important pets are to our residents’ well-being – both physically and mentally,” says Gerrit Brandow, director of Central Developments. “We strive to create a retirement community rather than just a development, so we pay attention to providing facilities that enable people to get together and enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company. For example, Celebration’s lifestyle centre has a beautiful communal dining room as well as a recreation hall for various social activities. Walkways lead to the 2.7ha protected green space and beautiful views over the rolling hills of the area can be enjoyed by both our two- and four-legged residents alike.”

When considering your retirement options, pay attention to the community aspect as well as the pet’s policy of the community. These aspects are often overlooked, but have a significant impact on your quality of life as a retiree.

Celebration Retirement Estate’s show house village is open 7 days a week from 09:00 to 17:00 and is well worth a visit or go to www.retirenow.co.za for more information


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Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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