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Pets Enjoy the Benefits of Living at Charlestown, Too

By Danielle Rexrode
April 16, 2024
Pets Enjoy the Benefits of Living at Charlestown

Charlestown, the Erickson Senior Living community in Catonsville, Md., is among the country's largest continuing care retirement communities, serving more than 2,300 residents. 

But did you know that 110 cats, 78 dogs, two birds, a rabbit, and a lizard also call the community home? 

True, they may not have chosen Charlestown themselves, but they still enjoy many of the same amenities as their human companions, including green spaces; a lake; shade trees; a nature trail; and two fenced, 20-by-40-foot dog parks, where owners and pets alike can socialize and stretch their legs.

Out and about

Eddie--a 14-year-old Jack Russell Fox Terrier mix--spends his days at Charlestown out and about on the 110-acre campus watching wildlife like deer, squirrels, foxes, and birds; making friends with passersby; and relaxing in the apartment home he shares with his "roommate" Elsie Kemp. 

"I have a sliding patio door, and his bed is right in front of it," says Elsie. "I face south, so I get sunshine most of the day, and he loves to just lay there in it."

When the weather is nice, Elsie and Eddie spend most of their time outdoors, going on up to four daily walks--a routine that benefits them both. 

"Having Eddie with me makes a big difference in how much I get outside. He also gives me a chance to socialize with people," says Elsie. "Everyone always wants to meet him. When we are walking, we talk to people we otherwise may not stop and talk to."

Like Elsie, many pet parents at Charlestown find that they are more active and engaged because of their furry friends. In fact, studies show that there are lots of health benefits to having a four-legged companion. 

The University of Michigan surveyed pet owners ages 50 to 80--including those who owned dogs, cats, fish, birds, and hamsters--as part of their National Poll on Healthy Aging. They found that 79% of pet owners experience reduced stress, 73% feel a sense of purpose, and 65% feel connected to other people.     

Offering support

Otto and Sandra Greul share their maintenance-free apartment home with a 13-year-old gray tuxedo cat named Smokey. Otto is the registrar for the community's pet group, which promotes the well-being of pets, pet owners, and those interested in pets at Charlestown. 

"Our purpose is to keep track of the pets on campus and to help the owners in any way we can," says Otto.

Each residence building at Charlestown has a pet group representative who greets new pet owners and encourages them to devise an emergency care plan for their pet.

Otto, the representative for his building, recalls one incident where the pet group's protocol proved valuable in reuniting an owner with their cat. 

"Security called me early on a Saturday morning because there was a cat roaming the halls," he says. "They asked me to provide a list of all the cat owners in our building on the second floor. Because I had a list of each pet owner and their information, we were able to quickly locate the owner and reunite them with their cat." 

Although pets are welcome at Charlestown, pet policies--keeping your pet's vaccinations up-to-date, having your pet leashed at all times outside your apartment home, and cleaning up after your pet--must be followed, as they allow neighbors without pets to enjoy their home too. 

Giving back

To further support pet parents, the group maintains a list of local veterinarians, boarding facilities, and groomers; hosts an annual Blessing of the Pets; and collects gently used pet supplies for the Maryland SPCA.

The group also hands out paw print magnets for each pet--to be placed on apartment home door frames--to alert Security, Emergency Services, and General Services that an animal resides inside. 

Refrigerator magnets are provided as well, so furry companions' vital information is easily accessible.   

Every other month, the pet group sponsors a local veterinarian to visit Charlestown, so feline friends can receive essential services like wellness exams, vaccinations, and nail trims.   

"It's wonderful for people who may not be able to drive anymore," says Otto. "You can just walk down the hall, and it is less stressful for the cats."

A fur-ever home

David and Betty Elder's cats, Mickey and Puff, appreciate the convenient care and their front-row seat to nature in their ground-level apartment

"We requested either a terrace or a patio with our apartment home, because we wanted the cats to be able to see outside," says David, who chairs the pet group. 

He adds, "We selected Charlestown for many reasons, but the pet-friendly environment was a real plus!"

To learn more about affordable, independent senior living at Charlestown, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.