People of all ages benefit from owning a pet. Seeing that furry face come to greet you at the front door after a long day gives one a feeling of being important and needed. Simply having a pet sit next to you as you watch television or read a book offers a calming, comforting effect. It’s been proven that animals can help lower blood pressure and stress, reduce heart rate and even fight depression. These are all great reasons for the elderly to consider owning a pet.
Pets can also help seniors maintain a daily routine, which is a key factor in slowing the aging process. For seniors who live independently, having a pet can help bring purpose to their lives and offer them a companionship they may not otherwise have. This is especially true when a senior is somewhat isolated or lives far away from family. Some seniors have reported that they feel as close to their pets as they do to family.
Animals can help seniors stay socially engaged. Walking a dog offers not only the important physical activity seniors need, but also gives an opportunity to talk to others about their pet. Pets also give seniors the physical contact they may need; a study showed that 74% of seniors with pets reported that simply touching their pet made them feel better. When social involvement is restricted due to physical limitations, an animal companion gives the elderly person an accessible source of social contact. This can lead to reduced feelings of loneliness and depression.
Having a pet during stressful times is also proven to be extremely helpful. Losing a spouse, for example, can be one of the most difficult situations a senior can experience. A study showed that those who owned pets reported significantly less stress than non-owners during these types of events. Owning a pet gives seniors a purpose and offer a coping ability to deal with losses.
Most seniors who own pets in their later years were pet owners throughout their lives, but this doesn’t mean if your aging loved one has never owned a pet it’s too late to consider doing so. The benefits pets offer the elderly are important to note and can greatly enhance their lives. There are, however, some things to consider if you or your aging loved one is considering adopting a furry companion.
- Pick the right pet for your loved one. Different types of animals have different needs, and you should choose the one that will best suit your loved one and their current health situation. For example, dogs tend to have more energy and need more attention than a cat. If taking a dog on a walk several times a day isn’t possible for your loved one, a cat might be a better fit.
- Age is important. Puppies and kittens are adorable, but they do require a lot of care. An energetic, young animal may not be the right fit for an elderly person. There are many animal adoption agencies that offer senior animals, all in need of a loving home, and these pets may be the perfect companion for your loved one.
- Is assistance available? If something were to happen to your loved one and they could no longer car for their pet, make sure there is a plan in place to guarantee the animal will not be neglected. Many assisted living facilities, American Senior Communities included, are now offering pet-friendly facilities, where your loved one can bring their pet with them to their new living arrangement.