Are you a pet lover? Then you probably already know that pets make great companions. However, you might be surprised to find out pets can provide a multitude of health benefits as well. This is especially true for older adults. Pets can improve their health and well being—helping them live healthier, longer and happier lives. Here are just a few of the benefits for seniors owning a pet.
Companionship — Pets make great company!
It’s common for seniors to become lonely and depressed, especially after losing a spouse, retiring or downsizing and moving into a new home. Pets can provide hours of entertainment, constant attention, unconditional love and a sense of being needed.
Increased Physical Activity — Pets require you to move!
Many older adults become less active and sedentary from illness, stiff joints a lack of interest. Feeding, grooming, walking or playing with a pet can help to improve blood circulation, increase metabolism and keep muscles from becoming weak and stiff.
Improved Heart Health — Pets are good for your heart!
According to the American Heart Association and the National Institute of Health, pets can reduce the risk for heart disease. Overall, studies have shown pet owners have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels which can reduce the risk for having a heart attack.
Emotional Support — Pets make you feel better!
Research suggests pets can help reduce stress and anxiety by producing a chemical chain reaction in the brain. They help to increase the feel-good hormone, serotonin and decrease the stress-inducing hormone, cortisol.
Improved Socialization — Pets can improve your social life!
Having an interest in animals is a great way to connect with others and break the ice. Walking a dog in the park or taking a cat to the vet can help to reduce the feelings of isolation simply because other people are there too.
The bottom line, older adults can benefit from owning a pet. However, it might not be that simple. Pets may not be a fit for everyone. Whether you are choosing a pet for yourself or an elderly friend or family member, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Physically Fit — Can you care for the pet?
Be honest and choose wisely. Different pets need different levels of physical interaction. Puppies and kittens are adorable, but they require a lot of attention as compared to their mature counterparts. As well consider the size of your home – it matters when choosing a pet to share your space.
Financial Responsibility — Can you afford to own a pet?
Pets cost money. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, after the initial start-up cost, the average annual cost for a small dog is nearly $600 and only $35 for a fish. Keep in mind, cost can exceed the annual average if your pet has special needs or health problems.
Reserve Resources — Do you have a back-up plan?
Although you are planning to be the primary caregiver of your pet, you need to have a contingency plan. Do you have a family member, friend or neighbor that can take care of your pet if you become ill or go on vacation?
When deciding what pet is right for you or a loved one, take your time. Talk to other pet owners, meet with a vet or talk to someone at your local pet store to find a pet that best suites your or your loved one’s lifestyle. Weigh the risks and benefits. If it’s a fit, there’s no doubt, pets are a great way to enrich your life or the life of your older friend or relative.