When it comes to senior living facilities, pets are not often the first thing that people envision. At Sunrise Senior Living in Lynnfield though, they're an important part of providing residents with a truly home-like experience.
Not only are residents at Sunrise permitted to own their own pets, but on any given day, many of them are likely to get a visit from Madison, a rescued golden retriever who accompanies Executive Director John Jetty to work each morning.
"Part of our philosophy is, pets are good - good for residents, their morale, their health," said Jetty. Along with Madison, about six residents currently own cats, while one has a dog. There is also a house cat named Shadow who was formerly owned by a resident who passed away.
Madison is 8 years old and was rescued after years of being over-bred at a puppy mill in New Hampshire. Jetty explained that while her overall health is solid, this experience has left Madison with some internal damage that still requires medication. Before she began coming to Sunrise each day, Jetty spent about eight months nursing the dog back to health after her rescue.
Now, Madison is reportedly a regular at the facility's afternoon socials and is brought to many other events - although one place she's not allowed is in the dining room. The dog's personality is well-suited to the facility, with Jetty noting how one time after a resident fell, Madison laid next to her bed for hours. She is also known to go up and down the hallway visiting with residents and one time, made her way into the front of a group photo carrying a tennis ball. "She's a bit of a ham," said Jetty. The dog is also a familiar sight during her afternoon walks to employees of some nearby businesses.
The house cat, Shadow, is a somewhat different story as he reportedly just spends much of his time sleeping spread-eagle on his back in the second-floor foyer at Sunrise.
Madison is not an actual therapy dog, but her presence is seen as offering great benefits to many of the residents.
"We succeed very well in creating a warm, home-like environment," said Jetty. "Of course, pets are part of it because most of these people had pets."
Even patients suffering from memory loss and dementia conditions tend to light up when Madison comes for a visit. "It's just great therapy for any of our residents," said Jetty, noting that pets have also been found to help lower blood pressure and anxiety.
The Sunrise company was founded about 30 years ago and now boasts some 300 facilities in America and the United Kingdom. As part of its pet-friendly philosophy, residents must be responsible for their own pets, and there is a certain size limit as well.
"I can't say that it's unique, but most do not," replied Jetty when asked how widespread pet-friendly policies like Sunrise's are throughout the assisted living industry.