Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults
Wagging tails, snugly purrs and cheerful chirps bring light and joy into any environment, but for an older adult, the benefits of having a furry friend can go way beyond the cuddles and giggles they bring. It’s no secret that pet ownership can bring a healthier, more engaged quality of life. As a matter of fact, as it relates to pets and older adults, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a study showing that independently living seniors with a pet tend to have better physical and mental health than those who do not. The study also showed that those who owned pets were also better able to cope emotionally in a crisis. The benefits of pet ownership are many, but let’s hit the highlights:
- Unconditional Love – a pet provides unconditional love and affection. Beyond that, it provides the opportunity for the older adult to nurture and protect – something they may be missing in their senior years if they are living alone.
- Companionship – Loneliness is something that a great number of older adults struggle with. Lives that were once more active and full have become slower paced. Getting out may be more difficult and younger family members are busy with work and raising children. An unintended consequence is an older adult at home alone most of the time. A small pet can help to fill this void and bring love and companionship to a lonely person.
- Responsibility – A person with a purpose undoubtedly lives a more productive and satisfying life. The structure and routine of caring for a pet can provide a reason to get out of bed or off the couch, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
- Exercise – With dogs especially, pet ownership encourages regular exercise. Daily strolls with a pup will encourage the older adult to get outside and get some fresh air and may even lead to much needed socialization with neighbors.
- Security – A barking dog can serve as a great deterrent to a would-be burglar and can be an extra set of eyes and ears around the house in case of an emergency.
Some things to consider when choosing a pet for your loved one:
- Type of pet – The type of pet you choose should be consistent with the physical ability of your loved one to care for the pet. For example, a dog will require time outside while a cat will take care of its business in a litter box. A pet that requires more than the person can handle will provide more stress than benefit.
- Age of the pet – A puppy or kitten will require training and a higher level of care. Perhaps you should consider rescuing an older pet from the local shelter. Often times, surrendered animals come from homes of people who have passed. The adoption of this type of animal is a win for everyone!
- Breed of pet – some breeds than others. For older adults you might consider these dog breeds: Boston terrier, Pug, Greyhound, Cocker Spaniel and Chihuahua. Good cat breeds include the Russian Blue and Ragdoll, Persian, and Manx.
- Other options – If pet ownership is not a good option for your loved one, perhaps volunteering to love on animals at the local shelter or scheduling visits from a therapy animal would work better. One way or another, interaction with animals will have a positive effect.
According to AmericanPetProducts.org 2017/2018 Pet Owners survey, 68% of US households are pet owners. 38% of those pet owners are 54 or older and the trend is growing. Here in Polk County there are several good options for pet adoption.