Parrots have the potential to live for a very long time. While smaller parrots have a lifespan of 20-30 years, some of the larger parrots can live 50-100. Is it ok for someone over the age of 60 to get a parrot? How old is too old to get a parrot?
It's not uncommon to hear that anyone over 50 years old should not get a parrot because the parrot will outlive them. While it is likely true that the parrot will outlive the owner, is this a necessarily a bad thing or a problem?
First of all, a parrot is sooner likely to outlive its owner's interest in keeping it than the owner's life. It is difficult to foresee or commit to how our lives will be 10, 20, or 50 years from now. Circumstances change, people get busy, people move, life happens. Sometimes those circumstances make it impossible to continue to keep the parrot and sometimes the person just no longer wants the bird. This is reality.
So, instead of focusing on trying to get people to keep the parrot for the bird's entirely life (which in some or many cases may exceed the human's), I would much rather focus on education and training. Ensure that the parrot's life is good with you in your home and beyond.
It starts with my own parrots. Although, I have every intention of keeping them, I made sure to train and socialize all of my birds to be good with other people. Whether I have guests over, I'm having someone take care of my birds while I'm on a trip, or if something were to happen to me, it is my responsibility to ensure their well-being.
What is bad about a bird outliving it's owner or being rehomed? Why does it get such a bad rap? The reason is because the parrot was selfishly or thoughtlessly kept in isolation with that single owner its whole life and then when the owner passes away or rehomes the bird, it becomes extremely distraught. A large part is because the parrot is unfamiliar with different people and fearful of the changes. Another reason can be from developing an inappropriate sexual "mate" bond with the human which makes the parrot anguish similar to having a mate pass away (whether the owner really died or gave the bird away).
This is preventable. No doubt the parrot may be disappointed about the changes, but there is no reason it has to be debilitating to the parrot's future. The bird should be able to live on without its owner. This is where training is so useful. Training helps create a bond that is more based on friendship rather than mating. This is a relationship that is more replaceable. Other people can fill this type of role either temporarily or permanently. Furthermore, the parrot has room for more than one person for friendship rather than mating relationships.
Training teaches the parrot methods and tools that can be replicated by other people. This makes it easier for the parrot to accept other members of the family in your home. But, it also prepares the parrot for life in a future home if it ends up outliving its time with you.
My advice is to at minimum clicker train, target train, and step up train any parrot. Even if the parrot has a good relationship with you, performing this training will help the bird do these important behaviors for other people. You can learn about basic training from my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. My recommendation is to make sure that anyone who gets or inherits your bird receives the clicker, target stick, and book along with the bird. If the bird transfer is done with your guidance, you should teach the new owner and help the bird accept them. However, if it happens suddenly for unforeseen reasons, set it up so the new owner receives the same tools and information that you used. This ensures that they can learn how to re-establish communication with your parrot, even without your help, that will be familiar to the parrot. Although the new faces and environment may be unfamiliar, at least the parrot will understand the communication and interaction. This will help the parrot adjust to the new home quickly. But, it will also help the new owner get to like the parrot and wish to take better care.
You see, when someone inherits or accepts an untrained parrot, it is often quite bitey and difficult. This does not inspire trust or interest for the new owner and the parrot often gets mistreated or passed around. You can ensure that your bird is adored in your and future homes by teaching good behavior now. It's on you. And age has nothing to do with it.
That said, don't get a parrot if you don't expect yourself to be able to work with the bird for the foreseeable future. This could just as well be due to health, responsibilities, life changes, as well as age. A high school student about to leave for college, may have less years of commitment than a 70 year old in good health with plenty of time! Be smart about whether or not you have time to commit to your bird's education and preparation for life with or without you.
And if you feel that your day are numbered or that you won't be able to care for a parrot for years to come, there are other ways to be involved without getting a parrot of your own. You can volunteer at a parrot rescue in person or virtually. You can foster a parrot in your home temporarily. You can visit parrots at a bird store or you can live vicariously through parrot youtube videos.
So, as you see age and lifespan matter much less in the case of parrot ownership compared to quality of experience, socialization, training, and preparation. To provide the best quality of life to a parrot now and in its future, training and socialization are a must. Take responsibility and see to it that your parrot can be happy in your home and in the next.
Learn how to train and socialize any parrot with the help of my Parrot Academy.