Senior homes need dog days

There are tons of things to fix. I know.

We incarcerate people at a ridiculous rate. We throw away far too much food. We pollute everything. We are a pestilence to our own planet.

But I’ll just throw another one in there.

I think about our aging populations in residential care facilities that play Bunco and stuff during communal game nights. They have hair salons and outings to the mall, if they’re able. If they don’t feel like hanging out, they can watch TV in their rooms, sometimes at volumes rivaling the stands in a Raider’s game. They have cords they can pull if they’re having an emergency at night and bracelets with buttons they can push if something bad happens when they’re alone.

There are some that push those buttons just because they’re lonely. Or because firefighters have a reputation of being extraordinarily good looking.

I’m no expert on what all happens in these places, but I watched my grandma do all of these things. And she wasn’t ever stoked about being there.

What I did see was her face light up when I brought my dogs to visit. When she got a cat and it would sit on her lap. Her contentment while idly picking the cat’s hair off of her pants. When she named the birds that visited her little bird feeder outside her window.

She was lucky to be in a facility where these things were available. Not every home is as nice.

Of course, there are therapy dogs that visit places like this. And everyone loves them and everyone gets kisses and snuggles and wagging tails and the people are so, so happy.

And then the dogs go away and maybe it’s back to TV and waiting for the next meal.

What if facilities had two or six or eleven dogs that were certified therapy dogs that just had the run of the place? Calm and loving and well behaved and good at giving doggie hugs. A reason to hang out more and be less lonely and reduce the need to summon good-looking firefighters to provide attention. To give health and a sense of well-being to the community. To lower stress and blood pressure and provide comfort.

I know, I know. Allergies and folks who are scared of dogs and maybe the health department wouldn’t like it.

But I know I’d be happier if that was the scoop and I was moving there. Therapy Dog Central.

There’s bird people out there too. What if there was a room that had real trees and song birds flying around or in cages or whatever the Health Department was cool with? If it was me, I’d go in there and sit for a while every day. I’d close my eyes and breathe in the plants and the trees and let the sweet songs fill me with peace and memories of youth. Memories of butterflies and hummingbirds and running and laughing until my belly hurt.

What if there was a child care center on the first floor? What if the elderly could read a book to a kid each day? Or the kid could read to them instead? That would be great for everyone.

Maybe some of this stuff happens somewhere. But what if all these things existed in every residential care facility?

It could be another place to start. Another small but powerful way to give folks health and happiness.

I know if this was the expectation — the norm — my grandma would’ve been stoked.

Jodie Gullickson is almost a native Nevadan. She enjoys outdoor stuff, adventuring, and drinking beer. She lives in Reno with her husband and three fur-kids.


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