Pet’s paradise

Parting with a beloved pet when downsizing shouldn’t be a reality of retirement.  Luckily, for residents at VMCH retirement communities, the welcome mat is rolled out for most furry friends.

Shanagolden Retirement Living Coordinator Fiona Sparrow says knowing residents can bring pets to live with them at the Pakenham village is a real “selling point”. 

“There are so many benefits to having pets in retirement,” she said.  “They can mitigate loneliness, be a good excuse to head out for a walk, and help from bonds with other resident pet owners.”

At Shanagolden, six canines and a couple of cats make up an important part of the community… 

Marlene, Wilma and Audrey 


Marlene King adopted Audrey the cat when her original owner, Kay, relocated to Shanagolden aged care residence.  A self-confessed “cat person”, Marlene was quick to take on the role as Audrey’s new owner. “I always thought she was lovely and used to look at her sitting in Kay’s window,” Marlene said.  Now, the one-year-old domestic longhair keeps Marlene and her mum Wilma, who lives with Marlene at Shanagolden, on their toes.

“She’s into everything… she can open the sliding doors and I have to encourage her back into the laundry with the hose.  She divides her time between mum and I, sleeping half the night on each of our beds.  She’s great.”  Marlene says owning a pet in retirement is essential.

“They give so much, it really is like therapy.” 

Georgi, BJ and Baxter

BJ the Schnauzer and Baxter the long-haired Chihuahua are regular, furry fixtures around Shanagolden. Their owner, Georgi Johnston, walks them around the village twice-daily and says all the residents know her beloved dogs.

“They’re extremely social and people often stop them for a pat.  Sometimes when we’re out they will approach residents from the aged care home (co-located at Shanagolden) and it’s lovely to see the expressions on their faces.”

The acceptance of her dogs was a deciding factor for Georgi when choosing Shanagolden to live in March 2016.  “I wouldn’t have left them behind.  They are great companions and always there for me.  I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

John and Harry 

“I’d be lost without Harry, he’s my best mate,” Shanagolden resident, John Goodman.


Health benefits of pet ownership*

 Assists in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol

  • Reduced visits to the doctor
  • Improves mood and wellbeing
  • Aids social interaction
  • Helps maintain mobility and mental clarity

 *Australian Seniors Insurance Agency.