Pets and Seniors: Do You Need a Furry Friend?
It’s estimated that over 79 million households in the United States own a pet of some sort. It’s true that pet ownership brings joy to those of all ages; a wagging tail greeting you after a long day makes you feel needed and loved, and stroking some soft fur as you settle in for the evening has a relaxing, calming effect. According to recent research, Baby Boomers are the second largest group of pet owners, just behind Millennials.
What can a furry companion offer to seniors? When it comes to pets and the elderly, the benefits cannot be denied. Here are just a few reasons seniors should consider pet ownership:
- 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 what type of pet you have, animals require you to move. Playing fetch, going for walks, scooping a litter box and simply just bending down to put food in a bowl or give a scratch behind the ears keeps you mobile.
- Lower stress levels and provide emotional support. Pets help you cope better during stressful situations. Seniors who own pets report significantly less stress during events like the loss of a loved one than non-pet owners.
- Help establish and maintain a daily routine. Pets do require a certain level of commitment. Feeding, grooming and exercising are all tasks that need to be completed on a daily basis. However, establishing a daily routine can help slow the aging process and provide a sense of purpose.
- Provide companionship and increase social connections. You might notice when you’re out and about that pet owners tend to gravitate towards each other. Pets provide unconditional love while keeping you engaged in life, getting you out of the house and meeting others. This helps reduce social isolation and the risk of depression that comes along with it.
Choosing the Best Pets for Seniors
If you’re considering adopting a pet, it’s important to take your own needs into consideration before heading to your local animal shelter. Think about how active you are and what kind of lifestyle you lead. For example, dogs might need a bit more attention than cats, so if mobility is an issue, a lap-cat might be a better option than a dog who needs multiple walks every day. Plus, while puppies and kittens are adorable, they can be highly active and take a lot more work than an older pet.
You should also consider what type of assistance is available for your pet should you need it. If something were to happen to you health-wise, it’s important to make sure someone is available to tend to your furry friend until you’re back on your feet.
Even if you weren’t a pet owner throughout your life, it’s never too late to consider pet adoption! The benefits pets can offer to seniors can greatly enhance your life.