Who doesn’t love coming home to an excited pet who has been waiting for hours, just to see you come through the door? After all, everyone needs and deserves this kind of adoration and companionship. While owning/having a pet is beneficial for many reasons and for most age groups, having a pet can be especially beneficial for seniors. The following are just a few of the many reasons, you might not know about:
- Promotes Exercise: Staying active, by taking regular walks and getting out and about is vitally important to those in the senior age demographic. Thankfully, owning a dog can be just the impetus for someone to stay fit. For example, a 2010 study entitled Exercise Motivation and Fitness through Dog Walking Among Older Adults, found that those who walked shelter dogs improved not only the distance they walked but their speed as well. The study also found that seniors were more likely to walk with a dog than with a human companion. This means simply owning a dog who needs to be walked can prompt a senior to create a habit of exercise.
- Promotes Increased Health: Even if a senior is unable to walk their dog themselves due to health restrictions, simply owning a pet can have benefits in and of itself. Research has proven that pet owners, primarily those who own cats and dogs, have a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Since this is the primary cause of death in those over 60 years of age, this benefit cannot be overstated. In addition, the American Heart Association has found through various studies that in general, pet owners respond better to stress, have lower blood pressure and have a lower resting heart rate than those who don’t own a pet. In essence, pet owners respond better to stress and recovery quicker.
- Promotes Better Mental And Emotional Health: When seniors get older, their families may move away and their ability to get out and about is often greatly reduced. Thankfully, having a pet can provide seniors a measure of companionship and emotional stability they wouldn’t have without their presence. While a pet cannot replace the companionship of a human being, caring for a pet can force a senior, who might be reluctant to get out and socialize, to come out of their shell and get to know new people. For example, they might meet people when walking their dog or go to classes with their pet for them to learn various commands, etc. Of course, simply having the companionship of a pet can help counteract the isolation and loneliness many seniors face on a regular basis.
- Promotes Safety: In the specific case of service dogs, pets can even promote and enhance a senior’s safety when they are running errands or around the house. Many dogs are trained to offer stability to a senior who is a bit unsteady or to recognize the symptoms of a medical emergency in the process. (Of course, it’s important for pets to be properly trained to serve in such a role.) These abilities, along with other methods like medical alert systems, can combine to keep seniors independent longer.
The senior years can become isolating and lonely. This is especially true for seniors who live away from their family. Thankfully, pet ownership is one way that seniors can promote increased health both emotionally and physically as well as derive many other benefits. The above are just a few of the many benefits you might not have known about.