pets and seniors

The Benefits of Pets for Seniors

Pets and Seniors: Do You Need a Furry Friend?

It’s been estimated that pets have a place in nearly 80 million United States households. Pet ownership can bring joy to all ages, and recent research confirms that Baby Boomers are the second-largest group of pet owners, just behind Millennials. There’s something comforting about a wagging tail greeting you each morning or stroking some soft fur as you settle in for the evening.

What can a furry companion offer for seniors? When it comes to older adults and pets, the benefits cannot be denied. Here are just a few reasons pet ownership is beneficial:

  • Improve Physical Health: Studies reveal that seniors who own dogs walk an average of 2.2 hours more per week than those who don’t own a pet. Regardless of the type of pet you have, animals require you to move. Playing fetch, going for walks, scooping a litter box, or simply bending to put food into a bowl or give a scratch behind the ears helps keep you mobile.
  • Lower Stress Levels and Provide Emotional Support: The very presence of a pet can help combat anxiety, agitation, irritability, depression and loneliness. Seniors who own pets report significantly less stress during situations such as illness or the loss of a loved one compared to non-pet owners.
  • Help Establish and Maintain a Daily Routine: Pets require feeding, grooming and exercising — all tasks that need to be completed on a daily basis. Even goldfish require regular care and feeding. A regular pet-care routine can help slow the aging process and provide a renewed sense of purpose.
  • Offer Needed Companionship: When you’re out and about, you might notice that pet owners tend to gravitate toward one another. Pets keep people engaged in life, plus talking about your pet’s latest antics is always a great way to start a conversation.
  • Expand Social Connections: Dogs foster interaction with others. Taking a dog outside for fresh air and exercise is equally good for humans and it can help you meet new friends, adding new social interaction to your life. 
  • Provide a Sense of Purpose: There’s no doubt that pet ownership requires commitment. Having a pet alleviates the sense of isolation that can accompany aging and reduces the risk of depression that goes along with it.
  • Boost Self-esteem: Pets provide unconditional love while keeping you engaged in life. When you’re responsible for another living being, your own sense of worth is boosted. 
  • Improve Cognitive Functioning: Cognitive and mood disorders are lower among seniors who own pets, particularly dogs. Studies have shown that interacting with dogs lowers blood pressure, slows heart rate, regulates breathing and relaxes muscle tension. Pet therapy can be beneficial for those with memory problems or dementia.

Choosing the Best Pets 

If you’re considering adopting a pet, it’s important to consider your own needs before you visit your local animal shelter or pet store. Consider your lifestyle, activities and abilities. For example, dogs need more attention than cats, so if mobility is an issue, a cat that enjoys sitting on your lap might be a better option than a dog that requires daily walks.  

In addition, as adorable as puppies and kittens can be, understand that they won’t remain little forever. They also tend to be highly active and require more attention and care than older animals. 

There are some basic questions to ask yourself before deciding to become a pet owner. First, is the size and type of pet you might want to consider. You’ll want to be certain that your home has ample space to accommodate a pet’s needs. Compare breed traits — not only personality and common habits, but also common illnesses, possible health problems, dietary needs, shedding, care considerations, adoption and licensing fees, veterinary requirements and the cost of food, grooming and pet toys.

Dogs and cats are not the only types of pets you might want to consider. A bird in a cage or fish in a tank, even a furry rabbit, can be a wonderful companion and the needs of such pets might be more compatible with your situation.  

Also, consider what type of assistance is available for your animal should you need it. If you were temporarily unable to care for a pet, would there be help available? Also consider your pet’s expected lifespan. If it becomes necessary to rehome your pet, do resources exist to help make that happen? 

Even if you weren’t a pet owner earlier in your life, it’s never too late to consider adopting a pet! The benefits of pet ownership clearly enhance the lives of older adults.

Enjoy Pet-Friendly Senior Living in Oklahoma City

The senior living community at Concordia encourages pet companions! View our floorplans today or contact us to schedule a visit. See for yourself all that our beautiful community has to offer. We look forward to welcoming you and your pet into one of our programs, such as independent living.

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