8 Reasons Why Seniors Need Pets
Nobel Prize winner Anatole France once said, “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” We completely agree, and research certainly supports the physical, mental and emotional benefits pets offer, particularly to seniors. While those sweet kisses, wagging tails and loving eyes may already sway you, here are eight more reasons seniors need pets.
- Regular Exercise – Anyone who’s ever tried to avoid playing with the cat or walking the dog knows they are a persistent lot. But that’s a good thing! In fact, a study published in The Gerontologist found that dog walking was associated with lower body mass index, fewer daily activity limitations and fewer doctor visits. And any additional time you’re active versus being sedentary has benefits.
- Lower Blood Pressure – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a pet has the potential to lower blood pressure, especially in hypertensive or high-risk patients. A health report from Harvard Medical School echoes this, and in fact, says research suggests simply petting your dog can cause blood pressure to decrease because of its calming effect.
- Help in Managing Stress – A study at State University of New York at Buffalo found that when conducting stressful tasks, people experienced less stress when their pets were with them than even when a spouse, family member or close friend was nearby. But who really needs research to confirm that it’s impossible to stay in a bad mood with Fido or Fluffy around?
- Companionship – Many seniors live alone which puts you at higher risk for depression, loneliness and even social isolation which according to the AARP is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Pets are the perfect antidote as they the most faithful of friends and love you unconditionally. We hear they’re also great listeners!
- Keeping Mentally Active – Truthfully, there’s a lot involved in taking care of a pet, but that’s not necessarily a negative. It’s actually another way you can stay mentally active in which a growing body of research suggests could play a role in slowing memory decline. Maybe look at cleaning that litterbox with a little less disdain next time?
- Purpose – Seniors often struggle to feel as useful as they once were in their career or when raising a family. Pets to the rescue again! In fact, the National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 73 percent of those surveyed said their pets provided a sense of purpose. What’s more, taking care of your pet can improve confidence and self-esteem.
- Social Opportunities – There’s not much pet owners like to do more than show off and talk about their fur babies. This gives you ample opportunity to expand your social network whether it’s at the dog park, the vet, the groomer or even Facebook groups. A study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health even found that being a pet owner was the third most common way those surveyed met people in their neighborhoods.
- Living in the Present – While you may worry about the what ifs of tomorrow – will you outlive your savings, what will happen to your health – your pets can’t think like that. They live in the moment and have a way of keeping our focus right there with them. It’s a welcome distraction as according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging 88 percent of those surveyed said that their pets helped them enjoy life.
Finding Your Puurfect Pet
Pet ownership should benefit you and your pet so make sure you take the following considerations into account before making that commitment:
Previous Experience – This makes for an easier lifestyle transition and you have a clearer understanding of what to expect.
Activity Level – If you have any disabilities or functional limitations consider how much you could realistically take on. Puppies are adorable but need a lot of attention and exercise, much more so that older dogs or cats. And cats in general are more self-sufficient than dogs.
Allergies – Even if you’re allergic this may still be worth looking into as there are dog and cat breeds known to be more hypoallergenic. Always consult your doctor and/or a vet first.
Temperament – Pets, just like people, have different temperaments. Make sure to look at the characteristics of different breeds and their personalities to see which would be the best fit.
- Finances – From toys and food to supplies and vet bills, pets can be expensive beyond just the initial costs. Are you willing to make a long-term financial commitment as well?
- Contingency Plan –Should you no longer be able to care for your pet make sure a family member or friend is willing to step in so they’ll always have the loving home they deserve.
- Place of Residence – Do you live in a house? Apartment? With your children or a roommate? Make sure it’s practical to own a pet given your living situation and check for restrictions with your home owner’s association or apartment complex.
If and when you decide you’re ready, local pet rescues and/or animal shelters are wonderful places to find your new best friend. If it’s not convenient to check them individually, Petfinder.com can be a valuable tool.
Our senior living community is pet friendly! For more information, contact Richfield today.