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A survey of more than 4,000 members of the public by the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) has revealed that 90% of people think that separation from a pet is traumatic for older people entering residential care or sheltered accommodation.
The TNS research carried out in March 2010 also found 83% agree pets make their owners happier and 54% think pet owners should be able to make the choice about entering care facilities after seeing the accommodation policy.
According to the PFMA, the benefits of pet ownership for elderly people include a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, improved recovery from heart attacks and strokes, better social interactions in people with dementia, and fewer GP visits. In addition, those who keep pets when entering care homes enjoy a smoother transition into residential care,
The PFMA says this survey has helped shape its goal to ensure all leading UK housing providers implement responsible pet policies that enable older people to make an informed choice about their future. This commitment is part of the organisation's 2020 vision to 'make a better world with pets', launched to mark its 40th anniversary.
The PFMA also says it is working closely with SCAS (Society for Companion Animal Studies) and MPs - including Ian Cawsey, Nick Palmer and Nigel Waterson - all striving for fairer treatment of the older pet-owning public.
Ian Cawsey, MP for Brigg and Goole, said: 'Today we have more than 11 million elderly adults living in Britain, of whom approximately 25% are pet-owners. This figure is estimated to rise to 14 million by 2026 and the majority of these people will eventually require some form of residential care. Unfortunately growing older often involves inevitable heartache and loss but being separated from a pet when entering care facilities should not be part of it. This is why I welcome the PFMA's 2020 goal to ensure care facilities implement responsible pet policies over the next decade."
PFMA, Chief Executive, Michael Bellingham, explains: "Having analysed the research and consulted SCAS we are delighted to announce our 2020 ambition to ensure fairer treatment of the older pet-owning public. The importance of pets to people in care facilities cannot be under-estimated. Over the next ten years we want to make a big difference to the lives of older pet owners."
This latest call to action follows the successful passing of shadow minister for older people, Nigel Waterson's bill - Care Homes and Sheltered Accommodation (Domestic Pets) Bill - which aims for a more "enlightened and responsible" policy for allowing pet owners in residences to keep their beloved animals.
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