By Dani Villalobos-Perigo

SENIOR LIVING STAFF WRITTER

Every mroning, Neal Jensen and his 10-year-old Golden Retriever, Lucy, start their morining the same way: enjoying the solitude of Oakmont of Fresno’s private pet park.

The luxury senior living community opened its doors this February, offering local families upscale assisted living and memory care apartments for their loved ones – and as a special perk, welcomes residents animales, like Lucy, to live in the facility alongside their humans.

“Oakmont has been at the forefront of integrating pets into assisted living.” Says Tiffany Otis, Oakmont of Fresno’s ,marketing coordinator. “And you’ll see that other communities have actually followed suit.”

With impressive amenities like gourmet dining, an on – site salon and spa, movie theater and various social activities, it makes sense that a company recently recognized as a 2016 Best of assisted Living Award winner by North America’s largest ratings and reviews site for senior care and services, SeniorAdvisor.com, would incorporate out- of-the-box thinking into its structure.

Otis lists several physical, psychological and even spiritual benefits having pets offers to the senior community, including reducing medical bills, lower systolic blood pressure and cholesterol and decreasing the likelihood of heart disease symptoms in men.

“They’re also great in a time of crisis,” she explains. “We’ve had some residents who residents have been through some hardships, and I think the pets make it a lot easier, especially the pets that are always out and can provide comfort to people that aren’t even their owners.”

The seven Oakmont of Fresno residents who moved in with their beloved pets can be regularly seen roaming throughout the grounds on a daily basis. And if they’re clever like Janet Wenzel’s Beagle-Golden Retriever mix, Hunter, can even find their way back to the nearest elevator and apartment without any additional guidance.

The 74-year-old began calling the senior living community home in September, first learning about the facility’s stellar reputation through her daughter. One of its most compelling features: she could bring her 151/2-year-old companion with her.

“Having pets with you makes you calm, and he’s adapted very nicely.” She says of Hunter, “He loves the people; everybody loves him. He especially likes ArtHop because everyone wants to pet him and he just loves it.”

Along with special events and functions, Oakmont of Fresno hosts community walks with residents and their pets along the community’s walking path, provides sanitary stations with wipes for residents to use at their disposal, offers complete pet care provided by the staff and, of course, provides access to its private pet park.

Jensen and Lucy have come to view the park as their little oasis, an area that the four-legged pal views as her place to get her everyday fill of play and fun. “They did this especially just for dogs,” he says, gesturing to the grassy terrain Lucy was currently running around in. “You don’t see this very often. She has a great time.”

See, when it comes to animals, this company isn’t afraid to let everyone enjoy the advantage of having their furry friends around. All of Oakmont Senior Living’s current properties – including its home office in Santa Rosa are pet-friendly, allowing Otis and other staff members to pack their pooches, cats and other domestic animals up with them before heading to work.

Executive director Kevin Spoor’s Labrador-Pitbull mix Juicy, is considered to be Oakmont of Fresno unofficial “house dog” and the 11-year-old hound knows it, too. Juicy spends the day meandering throughout offices and living and activities rooms – visiting with various residents throughout each stop. Some even volunteer to babysit the pooch when Spoor leaves on vacation.

“It gives you a sense of relaxation. They’re not distracting; it’s the opposite,” Otis says of bringing in her terrier, Precious. “It makes you feel more at home, and also helps you remember as an employee that when you walk through those front doors, you’re not coming to work – you’re coming into someone’s home. This is where they live, and the pets are a constant reminder of that.”

Click here to read the story at the Fresno Bee.