This study employed the life course perspective to investigate the convergence of two demographic shifts: the aging of the population and the increase of pet ownership. Specifically, we examined whether pet ownership, the degree of bond with a pet, and reasons for and against pet ownership differed between three age cohorts: the young-old (ages 51–64 years), older adults (ages 65–84), and the oldest-old (ages 85 and over). This study analyzed data from 1,367 respondents of the 2012 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) using bivariate statistics and multivariate regression models. We found evidence for differences in rates of pet ownership by race, ethnicity, age, number living in household, and whether someone was living with a spouse or partner, but not by gender, education, income, wealth, or health. The bond with a pet did not differ across age cohorts. Companionship was the most common reason for owning a pet across the three age groups, while concern about the resources (e.g., time and work) required of pet ownership was the most common reason for not living with a pet. Results were interpreted at the individual level using the life course perspective’s tenets of timing in lives, linked lives, and human agency, while taking the societal level tenet of historical time and place into account. While rates of pet ownership differed by age cohort, all participants reported a strong bond with their companion animal. Programs and policies can help facilitate these ongoing relationships. The life course perspective provides a useful framework to gain a deeper understanding of pet ownership and the human–animal bond throughout people’s lives.
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