Pets are an important part of many seniors’ lives. They are a source of comfort and a barrier against loneliness. Pets can play a large role in a senior's care and comfort. But, it's important for seniors to consider how adopting a pet will fit into their lifestyle.
Anyone that loves animals could tell you that a pet makes them happier. Yet, it may go deeper than that. According to Psychology Today, elderly individuals living with a pet are less than one-quarter as likely to develop clinical depression. One factor may be that these individuals would otherwise be socially isolated. The comforting presence of a furry friend does a lot of good. People also more often approach and interact with seniors that are in the company of a dog (Psychology Today). Walking the dog becomes not only a healthy way to stay active, but also a form of social interaction with a community. A dog park is likely a good way to ensure a senior gets friendly conversation on a regular basis. They'll already know they have something in common with fellow pet owners.
Feeling needed by a pet is a great motivator for seniors. Keeping the mind and body active to care for a pet will help keep a senior healthy. Psychology Today notes that senior pet owners suffer from physical ailments associated with stress to a lesser degree. Caring for a pet can be a calming routine. Spending time with an animal that shows unconditional love is a great stress reliever.
The benefits of pets for seniors are not only psychological, but also physical. Walking a dog is an easy, low-impact exercise. This type of regular exercise can help keep muscles strong. Research by Psychology Today also suggests that seniors with pets follow recommended health suggestions more closely. Senior pet owners may have a stronger desire to remain healthy because their pet is dependent on them.
A dog could even help extend a senior's lifespan. "There is even one study which looked at men aged 55 or more who had suffered from their first heart attack which found in follow-ups of 1 to 4 years, that those individuals living with a dog were much more likely to still be alive" (Psychology Today).
Seniors that are considering pet ownership may want to consider adopting a senior dog or cat. Senior pets often have a harder time finding their forever home. Despite being harder to find homes for, senior pets often make better companions. Their temperament is perfect for seniors, as they are generally less active and calmer. A senior pet also comes without the burden of training and other frustrations.
Seniors also need to make sure they have a plan for their pet's future. Having a friend, family member, or local agency ready to take over pet ownership is important. Seniors may face a changing lifestyle or living situation that makes pet ownership no longer a viable option. In the event of their death, seniors should also have a plan for their pets. It's important to talk to family, friends, or local resources about what those options may be.
If full-time pet ownership isn't ideal, there are other options. Volunteering at a local pet adoption agency or becoming a dog-walker could allow for some fun with furry friends.
Pets can be integral to a senior’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Caring for a pet can become more challenging with age. Our caregivers can help give pets the attention they need to stay healthy and happy. Caregivers can assist in feeding and grooming pets, and taking dogs on walks.