Pets are a source of love, joy, connection and emotional support. Whether it’s a wagging tail, a gentle purr or a warm nuzzle, the presence of a furry friend can bring endless comfort, happiness, and a sense of well-being into your life. According to a CDC study, the bond between people and their pets can also:
- Increase physical activity
- Decrease stress
- Decrease blood pressure and heart disease
- Decrease cholesterol levels
And the list goes on! There is even opportunity for pets to help those with hearing loss! There are many organizations that provide service animals and some services can help you train your own dog to alert you to sounds in crowded places or alarms in emergencies.
If you’re thinking about bringing a pet into your life, here are some more benefits of pet ownership.
One of the greatest benefits of pets for seniors is companionship. Studies show that owning a pet can decrease feelings of loneliness and build your social support.
Providing care for a pet can also help set up a routine, which over time will strengthen your relationship with your pet. This study shows that seniors who owned a pet were 36% less likely to experience loneliness than seniors who do not have a pet. Animals such as cats and dogs often love to be cuddled and close to people, providing a source of unconditional love and companionship.
Simply playing and cuddling with your pet can decrease stress and lower your blood pressure! According to a national poll, three-quarters of pet owners aged 50 to 80 say their animals reduce their stress and give them a sense of purpose.
Spending time with a pet can also encourage you to be more present, instead of worrying about the future or living in the past. “Dogs and cats live very much in the present,” says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey-based psychotherapist. “They don’t worry about tomorrow. An animal embodies that sense of here and now, and it tends to rub off on people.”
Additional Health Benefits
Pets provide a great reason to form exercise habits, such as daily walks, which can help improve your heart health and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar. Dogs are particularly great at encouraging their owners to get out of the house.
Simply taking your dog on a walk through your neighborhood is a great conversation starter! Imagine an easy morning walk with Fido can help keep you healthy, give you something to look forward to, and help you meet more neighbors who also have dogs. Win, win, win!
A study by the University of Michigan and sponsored by AARP found that 70% of seniors said their pets helped them cope with mental and physical health issues. The same study showed that almost half of seniors said their pets helped take their mind off pain.
Companion Pets for Seniors: What to Know
While there are many benefits to pets for seniors, here are some other important things to consider before adopting a pet.
What’s the Best Pet for Seniors?
While this answer will vary from person to person, the CDC compiled a list of questions that will help seniors find which pet is best for them:
- How long will this animal live?
- What does the pet eat?
- What type of exercise and how much will the pet need?
- How large will it grow?
- How much will veterinary care cost?
- Do I have enough time to care for this animal?
- What type of habitat does this pet need?
- Are pets allowed in my house/apartment/condo/senior center?
Before welcoming any pet into your home, it’s important to do your research. It’s also important to have a support system and contingency plan in place in case of hospital visits, injuries or changes to your living situation. With so many different types of pets, how do you know which one is right for you? To help, here is a list of some of the most popular pets for seniors:
- Dogs: Boston terriers, cavalier King Charles spaniels, poodles, pugs and Yorkshire terriers
While many types of dogs can make great pets, smaller dogs like these may be easier for you to pick up, cuddle and manage day-to-day. Different breeds have a range of different energy levels and personality types as well.
- Cats: American shorthairs, longhairs, Himalayans and ragdolls
Most cats in the US will fall under American shorthair or longhair. Their personality will vary from kitty to kitty. They can be sweet and snuggly or more content to sit next to you while you watch your daily soaps.
- Fish: bettas, goldfish, guppies, mollies and tetras
A fish tank can be a low-energy way to enjoy a beautiful pet – or several pets in one tank!
Adopt, Don’t Shop
If you’ve done your research and are ready to bring a pet into your life, there are a lot of wonderful organizations to help you find your new furry best friend! A great place to start is by reaching out to your local SPCA or animal shelter. Many of these organizations will waive fees for seniors over 65 years old, and they often have programs to help cover adoption fees. Petfinder.com is another great resource to help you find the right dog or cat to adopt into your family.
Of course, once you bring your new pet home, make sure to add their veterinarian into your favorite contacts on your ClearCaptions Phone!