Having a pet can improve seniors’ physical and emotional wellbeing.
Many seniors have a lifetime of memories with animal friends, while others are just discovering the joys of owning a pet. Either way, an animal companion brings numerous benefits for seniors that can support mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Having a pet can enhance a senior’s care plan in the following ways:
One of the many benefits of pets is that they can greatly reduce loneliness by bringing seniors constant companionship. An animal friend that loves them unconditionally can make life more fulfilling, and the satisfaction of caring for another living being can boost seniors’ mood.
Spending time with a pet can reduce stress and anxiety. Petting an animal can lower one’s levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, while raising serotonin, which reduces stress and enhances a person’s mood. Plus, seniors who have a dog might feel safer if they are living alone—another stress-reducer.
Having a dog may encourage seniors to stay more active if they’re able to take their pet on walks. People who walk dogs tend to have fewer limitations to activities of daily living, research has found. This not only encourages physical activity but also makes life more interesting, drawing your loved one to spend time outside of the house. Regular walks with a dog can also encourage seniors to be more social through conversations with neighbors and people they see in the park.
Having a Service Animal
Service dogs can handle numerous home care tasks that assist seniors with mobility issues. From life-saving tasks like fetching medication to facilitating dressing, these dogs can help seniors live independently. Service dogs can also assist with senior care by helping visually impaired people navigate obstacles and the outside world safely or alerting hearing-impaired individuals to the presence of other people or vehicles.
Alternatives to Owning a Pet
For seniors who can’t have their own pet where they live, pet therapy provides another way to connect with furry companions. In pet therapy sessions, a volunteer will visit seniors with a well-behaved service dog that they can pet, cuddle, and play with.
For example, the Netherlands has a program that matches seniors with working families who have pets—a win-win for everyone involved.
Before getting a pet, it’s always important to consider whether now is the right time based on factors like cost and what the future may hold. If a senior might need to move into an assisted living facility in the next several years, find out whether a family member or friend could adopt the pet when that happens. This will give the senior peace of mind, knowing their furry friend will always be well cared for.
Aging in Place, “Seniors and Pets”
The Cleveland Clinic, “Why Having a Pet Can Boost Your Mood and Keep Your Brain Healthy”
Pets for the Elderly, “Health Benefits of Having Pets”
Pet Health Network, “Pets Help Cure Loneliness in Seniors”
Psychology Today, “The Challenges and Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors”