Comfort for some area seniors is defined by a gentle purr or wag of a tail.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society cite that senior citizens who have pets experience lower cholesterol and experience less depression and loneliness than those who do not have one.
Life at Bellmeade Manor is a bit sweeter because of the presence of pets roaming the halls, said administrator Pam Hensal.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Bellmeade Manor resident Ethel Books spends time with her cat, Miss Scarlett.
Visitors to the assisted living facility on Pleasant Valley Boulevard are often greeted by Smokey, the resident cat. He waltzes in and out of living areas and pitter-patters his dark gray paws through the hallways.
Smokey is not the only furry friend to consider the manor his home.
Two residents have pets.
Miss Scarlett, another feline who lounges around the facility, and Julie, a West Highland white terrier, are known by name by every resident.
The animals create what Hensal said is "unconditional love."
"Animals can bring out so much in people," Hensal said.
"You will see someone with dementia who maybe had a pet in childhood, and you bring in an animal and you see that person light up," she said.
Hensal said many people reach a point when they need to give up things as they go through the aging process. Selling homes, the loss of driving skills and the deaths of spouses are circumstances that can come with aging.
"At this age they sacrifice so many things. But by having a pet - they are still caring for someone," Hensal said.
Betty Kissell, 82, and Ethel Books, 85, can attest to the importance of having an animal in their lives.
Books has had her beloved kitty for 19 years. Her daughter, Sally, gave her Miss Scarlett when she was a kitten among a barn full of cats.
Books later moved to the Graystone independent living facility with Miss Scarlett in tow.
When she was unable to care for herself in some basic areas, Books moved to the manor. It was only natural that Miss Scarlett made the move, too.
If Bellmeade wouldn't allow Scarlett to live with her, Books said, "I'd leave."
"She sleeps with me," Books said. "She's my kid."
Kissell's 16-year-old dog, Julie, is fine with being the only canine at the facility, the pet owner said. Julie has made friends with Smoky and Miss Scarlett and greets them with a rub of the nose.
"She loves it here," Kissell said. "I can't pass anyone without someone trying to stop and scratch her head."
Julie, however, is not one to venture on her own like Smokey. She stays with Kissell, often in her arms and rarely makes a sound.
"The cafeteria ladies came running into the room the one night because they heard her bark - she never barks," Kissell said with a laugh. Julie had spoken that evening because Kissell removed her from a seat the dog liked.
Because animal are an important part of life at Bellmeade Manor, Hensal said she wanted to incorporate pets into an effort for the residents to give back to the community.
She contacted the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society and suggested the residents make biscuits for the dogs at the shelter.
Dogs then paid a visit to the manor and visited with the residents.
"They just loved it," Hensal said.