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10 Reasons Why Pets are Great for Seniors!

Pets can be an essential part of seniors’ lives in various ways, from companionship and emotional support to medical and mental health benefits. With the growing trend of aging in place and the challenges seniors face living alone, pets can offer seniors many reasons why adopting or buying a pet would be great for them. Here are ten reasons why pets are great for seniors!

Learning how to prepare for the pet

If you are considering getting a pet for a senior relative, it’s essential to involve them early in your thought process. While you may think a pet would be a fantastic surprise for them, adopting a pet often requires people to change their living environments and habits completely. Rather than asking them to decide whether they should or shouldn’t have a pet, you can help them get familiar with the idea of pet ownership. 

Firstly, it can be helpful to visit shelters or dog parks together. It is the opportunity to see how they react in the presence of animals. They may not feel comfortable with dogs or cats, so it’s best not to insist. 

If they are comfortable with pets and happy to stroke friendly neighborhood animals, it is your sign that they will be more receptive to the suggestion of adopting. Yet, remember that they should stay in charge of the decision at all times.

Your role is to make recommendations, such as explaining the importance of spaying and neutering pets and the function of pet insurance, so they can mentally weigh the pros and cons of owning a dog or a cat for themselves. Only when you feel they understand the responsibilities of a pet owner and can budget for caring for an animal can you take them with you to visit breeders or shelters where they can meet their new best friend. 

1) Feeling loved

Studies have shown that pets can make seniors feel loved. The unconditional love of a pet can be a great source of comfort and companionship. According to scientists, one study found that feeling unloved is twice as likely to kill elderly people as obesity. Unfortunately, seniors are more prone to feeling unloved due to their life circumstances.

Many seniors lose loved ones and are unable to replace their absence. Additionally, combined with social isolation and retiring in remote places, which are frequent in old age, not feeling loved is a common occurrence for the older population. A pet can help them feel loved and cared for. 

2) Having someone to take care of

Adopting a pet can give seniors a sense of responsibility, as the animal requires their assistance and attention. Caring for an animal is an effective way to maintain social values and practice good habits. Indeed, it can be tricky to stick to a schedule when you have no responsibility. For instance, many elderly adults lack nutrition because they forget to eat or can’t be bothered preparing food. 

Why adopting a dog or a cat can change things? In essence, they have to schedule essential pet-related activities, such as feeding time, which can act as a reminder to look after themselves too! 

3) Having a form of entertainment

Pets are entertaining in their own ways. They have their own personality and habits, keeping boredom at bay in the life of elders. They can enjoy the distractions a pet brings to their lives without spending their budget on expensive entertainment services. Watching a dog interact with their world or a cat play can be all the entertainment someone needs to stay engaged and focused! 

4) Mental stimulation

Most pet owners think about how they can keep their furry friend mentally stimulated, so it may not be evident that pets also provide mental stimulation to the owners. Believe it or not, pets can be a fantastic source of accessible and constant mental stimulation for seniors. More often than not, the slow decrease of stimulation can contribute to the development of neurological degeneration, such as dementia. However, when they adopt a pet, seniors have a lot to think about all day:

  • Playing with their pet
  • Trying to understand what the pet wants or needs
  • Talking and communicating with the pet
  • Planning essential pet care appointment
  • Remembering the pet’s routine
  • Managing the pet’s health

5) Physical activity

In old age, people are more prone to injuries. Loss of balance occurs more frequently among the senior population for two main reasons:

  • Firstly, inactivity can lead to a decrease in muscle strength, which can lead to injuries and falls. 
  • Secondly, old age’s degenerative muscle and bone loss worsen the situation. 

Pets can help seniors stay active by providing a way to walk the dog, feed the cat, or play with a little friend. One study found that people with pets in their homes take more than twice as many steps per day on average as those who don’t. Thanks to their dog or cat, seniors can significantly boost their health and protect themselves from unwanted complications by maintaining physical activities as a part of their day-to-day lives. 

6) Decreasing depression symptoms

One of the best ways to decrease depression symptoms is to get a pet. Depression can creep up on anyone. But when it comes to seniors, depression is more likely to appear:

  • Many seniors feel useless after retirement, and they miss their careers when they felt they could make significant contributions
  • Losing a loved one is a common cause of depression in old age. Did you know that many seniors don’t survive their partner’s death and die within six months too? 
  • It’s not uncommon to feel disconnected as a senior as you are less involved in day-to-day society. 

Studies have shown that people who are depressed or at risk of depression and have a dog or cat in the household, regardless of their breed, tend to experience fewer depressive problems than those who don’t have pets at home. The companionship alone can be therapeutic, and it’s just one more reason why adopting a pet is excellent for seniors.

7) Lower loneliness levels in older adults

Seniors in the United States suffer from isolation and loneliness, with one-third of seniors feeling lonely. Pet ownership can help lower this number by providing companionship, keeping them active (walking the dog), providing emotional support, and meeting new people (dogs need to be walked). Adopting a pet, and especially a dog, can be beneficial against loneliness in more than one way:

  • The dog is a loyal and loving companion to a senior. 
  • It is easier to meet new people when you have a dog by visiting dog parks and joining specialist dog-friendly communities. 
  • Grandchildren, friends, and other relatives are also more likely to visit regularly when a pet is at home. 
  • Elderly adults who own a pet are more fun-loving and engaged, which makes them better company too. Therefore, making new friends and maintaining social connections can become a lot easier. 

8) Lower the risk of falls

This is a very important point, as falls are one of the most serious health risks seniors face. It’s also one of the leading causes of death in older adults. Studies have found that seniors who live with a dog or cat fall less often than those who don’t. This is because pets can offer their owners support in getting up from sitting and standing positions, making it easier to maintain balance.

Additionally, because pets tend to keep seniors more active, the risk of falling decreases significantly. Many pets can also be trained to provide support to their owners. Therefore, training a dog to protect a senior is perfectly possible by taking them to safety when the ground is slippery, for instance. 

9) Can reduce blood pressure

According to pet experts, heart patients who have pets tend to outlive those who don’t. This has to do with pets’ beneficial impact on your overall health. Petting a dog or a cat can help lower your blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart complications. 

Additionally, interacting with a pet also boosts feel-good hormones, decreasing stress, one of the most overlooked killers for people with heart diseases. Elderly adults, who are more prone to anxiety, can relax in the presence of an animal. 

10) Can lower pain perception after surgery

Even when seniors look after their health, they are more likely to undergo surgery, ranging from cataracts to hip replacement. These surgeries require recovery time, which can be painful. Recovery with a pet can help alleviate pain and stress during the post-surgery period. It can also naturally speed up healing and help seniors get healthier faster. Less pain is also primordial to maintaining physical activities and social interactions. 

In conclusion, adopting a pet can be the best decision a senior can make. However, there is no denying that pet ownership also comes at a cost in terms of responsibilities and finances. If you want to ensure that pet adoption remains beneficial for your elderly relatives, you have to make sure that it remains their choice. 

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