In 2016, the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) developed a research focus on the benefits and potential risks associated with pets among older adults. With the goal of developing a roadmap for human–animal interaction (HAI) research in older people residing in both the community and institutions, GSA convened a workshop of international experts and policy-makers in the fields of aging and HAI. The status of current knowledge was shared on the success factors for healthy aging and the potential challenges (GSA, 2016). Participants considered what roles pets might play in the lives of older adults and their potential to mitigate loneliness, social isolation, and depression, and to enhance mobility and cognitive function. Existing research was shared to provide insights into the ways in which pets can impact older adults and their caregivers and to identify where further research is needed. This paper introduces a series of papers from that meeting, with some additional papers from meeting attendees to expand on the topics covered and provide key perspectives and gaps in information needed, as a foundation for those considering research into this topic. Although HAI/Animal-Assistant Intervention (AAI) research is in its infancy, there is some evidence that pet ownership or animal interaction can have major benefits for many older adults. At the same time, there are some risks to both the pet and the older adult that need to be addressed. Innovative approaches to both AAIs and the ways to overcome challenges are presented in this themed issue of Anthrozoös. Our hope is that the findings from these reviews and reports will stimulate additional work in this area.
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