How Pets Help Seniors
As we age, we expect to deal with issues like wrinkles and diminishing energy; what we don’t expect is to become lonely. Unfortunately, one in three older adults reports feeling alone. According to a new report, though, pets may be an effective solution for these seniors.
The survey, conducted by Home Instead, Inc. found that adults 65 and older listed unconditional love as the No. 1 benefit of pet ownership. Other major advantages were company, comfort, stress relief, a sense of purpose and physical activity.
With an increasing number of adults looking to age in place, pets can provide much-needed and continual companionship. In fact, 82 percent of animal owners 65 years and older said they would not consider moving to a senior living community without their pet.
"Pets play a meaningful role in our lives at any age, but can be especially beneficial for older adults by providing constant friendship, easing anxiety and encouraging daily exercise and engagement," said Lakelyn Hogan, Home Instead Senior Care gerontologist and caregiver advocate.
For seniors who are unable to own pets of their own, there are still plenty of ways to gain the positive benefits of animal company. Spending time friends or family with pets, visiting animal shelters or even checking out dog parks gives seniors a chance to socialize—both with pets and humans.
In addition to the emotional benefits of pets, animals can also have a positive impact on seniors’ physical well being.
"There's a strong connection between heart health and pet ownership or interaction," said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). "Pet owners are more likely to get recommended levels of exercise, have lower blood pressure and experience reduced levels of stress. Pets have even been shown to aid in recovery after a heart attack."