For older adults, life can become quieter and lonely as the years go by. One way to combat this life change is by owning a pet. The health benefits of owning a pet for seniors far outweigh the work that goes into owning one.
Our furry, feathery, or even scaly family members can provide a variety of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. The bond between seniors and their pets goes far beyond mere companionship. Here are some of the top health benefits of owning a pet for seniors
Reduces Loneliness and Isolation
As they get older, many seniors experience feelings of social isolation and loneliness. This can lead to depression and other significant health problems. Having a pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, or even a bird, provides companionship and helps to reduce these feelings of isolation. Pets are loyal and loving, offering unconditional affection that can significantly improve your mental and emotional well-being.
Increases Physical Activity
One of the biggest benefits of owning a pet, particularly an active dog, is that it forces you to be physical. Dogs need to be walked, which in turn encourages regular physical activity on your part. Seniors with dogs are more likely to go for daily walks or play with them in the yard. Even this little bit of physical activity helps maintain mobility, joint flexibility, and cardiovascular health. In addition, physical activity of any kind leads to a stronger immune system and a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Lowers Stress and Anxiety
Simply looking at a picture of a little puppy or kitten is almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Studies show that petting a dog or cat can trigger the release of the mood-regulating hormone serotonin. It also increases the “feel good” hormone dopamine while decreasing the level of the stress hormone cortisol. This fluctuation helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Additionally, a pet’s rhythmic, soothing presence can help lower blood pressure, contributing to overall cardiovascular health.
Boosts Mental Alertness
Interacting with pets can stimulate mental alertness and cognitive function. While training your pet and teaching them tricks helps to boost their mental capacity, it also helps to maintain your mental acuity. This mental stimulation can delay the onset of cognitive decline and reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fosters a Sense of Purpose
Most of us work hard and look forward to the day we can finally hang up our work boots and retire. However, when that day finally comes, many seniors often experience a diminished sense of purpose. Owning a pet can give you back a sense of responsibility and purpose. Caring for a pet requires routine tasks like feeding, grooming, and exercise, providing structure to your days and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Enhances Social Connections
A study has shown pet owners are more apt to meet their neighbors than non-pet owners. Pets make great icebreakers for seniors when they are out on walks or at pet-friendly facilities. This can give you an opportunity to connect with others and strike up a conversation.
Reduces the Risk of Allergies and Asthma
Although it sounds like it would be the opposite, having a pet has been found to reduce the risk of developing allergies and asthma the older we get. This can be an added health benefit for seniors who have had pets throughout their lives.
Get Your “Purrfect” Companion
Owning a pet can do wonders for your health and well-being. These little bundles of joy enrich seniors’ lives in ways that extend far beyond companionship. The emotional, physical, and mental health benefits of having a pet cannot be argued or overlooked. Seniors who share their lives with a furry friend often experience reduced stress, increased physical activity, enhanced emotional well-being, and a greater sense of purpose.
If you’re a senior considering pet ownership, choosing an animal that matches your lifestyle and needs is important. If you’re unable to walk or aren’t terribly mobile, a dog might not be the best choice for you. You should talk to your healthcare provider and discuss your ability to own a pet. With the right pet choice and proper care, you could reap the many health benefits of owning a pet for seniors while making lasting and unforgettable memories.