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.

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 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.


I’m Liz Craven, and I live in Lakeland, FL with my husband Wes and our menagerie of pets (our kids are grown up now and killing the whole adulting thing). We own a local publishing company, Pro-Ad Media, and for the last 25 years have been providing digest sized publications featuring various aspects of Polk County life. Having lived here for most of my adult life, I have a pretty good handle on what makes a community special. I serve on multiple boards, and I love connecting people to each other and to local organizations that can enrich their lives.

The inspiration for the first printed ElderCare Guide came from my own experience learning to navigate the senior care world for family and wishing I had a handy resource. With our website, we can now provide tools and assistance to family members wherever they are.

Though I’m new to the blogging scene, anyone who knows me knows I almost always have something to say. Originally, I thought this was going to be my blog about all things seniors, a vehicle to share what I know about seniors that might be of interest and helpful to others. Then I realized this should be a bigger conversation, one that we need to have as a community. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting engaged and passionate people who have dedicated themselves to making Polk County a great place to live for people of all ages. This conversation should include them, and it should include you. So, while you will hear from me personally on a regular basis, you will also hear from local leaders and professionals who will shed light on different topics related to senior adults. As a local conversation, those who share here are accessible to you in case you have more questions about their topics (see, there is that connecting people thing again. So much fun!).

I hope you will join me in this weekly conversation. Moreover, I hope you will invite others to join the conversation as well. If you have particular topics of interest you’d like to hear more about, let me know and I’ll do my best to address them. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more great information.

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