Pets for Seniors

Pets help seniors live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.

The topic of  Pets for Seniors is not exactly “breaking news” but it’s something to keep in mind.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (May 1999) reports that seniors who have pets tend to have better physical health and mental wellbeing than those who don’t. They’re more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. Seniors who are pet owners have significantly lower blood pressure overall than those without pets.
I’ve been told that, regardless of age, the formula for happiness is:
• Someone to love
• Something to do
• Something to look forward to
Pet ownership provides those three things.

Pets for Seniors Garner These Health Benefits:

#1: Someone to love:

If you have a pet you have “someone” to love. In return, you are loved unconditionally. It almost doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do; your pet loves you anyway. It’s a good companion – a best friend.
Whether or not you live alone, your pet provides “someone” to relate to.
Unless your pet is a goldfish or a porcupine, it provides physical contact. Your dog runs to you, wagging its tail, begging to be petted. Your cat jumps into your lap as soon as you sit down and you can’t resist petting it.
When you pet an animal your blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol drop; you feel more peaceful.

#2: Something to do:

Having a pet gives you a sense of purpose. You feel needed, which (in my opinion) is a basic human need. Pet ownership carries responsibilities: you must perform various tasks. You must take care of it and its environment.

#3: Something to look forward to:

Whenever you go out, your pet is waiting for you when you come home and is ecstatic to see you. That provides the third portion of the happiness recipe. Who wouldn’t look forward to that?
Throughout most of the world, the most common household pets for seniors and people of all ages are dogs and cats.
If you’re a dog owner, you’ll probably get up several times a day to let it out and back in, and before the day is over you’ll probably take it for a walk which creates opportunities for social interaction. I find that people are more likely to engage me in conversation if I have a dog than when I’m alone.
If you have a cat, you’ll feed and groom it, change the kitty litter, keep it supplied with fresh water. You may chase it if it escapes and runs across the street.
Other types of pets, such as birds, hamsters, iguanas, rabbits, etc., serve the same function and are good pets for seniors. Even if you don’t get out the leash and take them for a walk, you do take care of them and their environments.
All this means that you stay active and get some exercise, which we all know, helps maintain good health.
A pet often functions as a support system for Golden Agers who have no family or friends close-by.
The JAGS study shows that elders with pets remain more emotionally stable during crises than those without.
Having a pet to interact with helps combat loneliness and depression.
It also helps seniors stick to a regular routine: getting up in the morning, buying groceries, and going outside, which help motivate them to eat and sleep better.
Research and experience has shown that animals and older people can share their time and affection, and ultimately, full and happy lives. Though pets don’t replace human relationships, they can fill an older person’s life with years of constant, unconditional love.  Pets for seniors provide a variety of benefits that equate to better health for golden agers.
If you don’t have a pet but would like to, visit your local Humane Society (or similar organization). It might be advisable to choose an older animal whose requirements and energy levels may be more in keeping with your own. All animals adopted through them have been spayed or neutered. Some “animal adoption agencies” that pair older animals with older humans waive the adoption fees. Be sure to ask.
My next article will be on the benefits of “therapy animals” in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. Please visit again for more articles on senior health and pets.  Feel free to share your personal Pets for  Pets for Seniors story in the comments section below.




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