This post was provided to Pet Guardian Angels of America by Noah Rue
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Why Adopting a Pet is Beneficial to Seniors
Pets have long been regarded as offering many benefits to their owners, like companionship and socialization, but it can be especially rewarding for seniors to adopt a pet. More than 40% of seniors feel lonely regularly, and because loneliness is one of the risk factors associated with mental decline, this loneliness and social isolation is a serious issue. Adopting a pet can not only help with loneliness, but with other issues that seniors face.
Many seniors already own pets, even if they may not realize the many benefits that pets offer. A 2018 National Poll on Healthy Aging found that over half of older adults have a pet, with 68% of pet owners having dogs, and 48% of pet owners having cats. Over half of pet owners had multiple pets. Of older adults, adults who were age 50 to 64 were more likely to have pets than adults who are age 65 to 80, possibly because of the challenges of caring for a pet. But seniors of any age benefit from having pets in many ways.
As seniors age, they often naturally withdraw from the social activities they once participated in. Physical and mobility restrictions may make it difficult for seniors to leave their homes, and they may become socially isolated as a result. One of the top tips for healthy aging is that seniors need to continue to connect with others, as loneliness can have mental and physical effects.
Pets offer seniors companionship that can help battle loneliness and quickly enhance their lives, adding entertainment and the comfort of another being living in the house. Dogs need to be walked, and this need can encourage seniors to become more active and leave their homes more often. A friendly, outgoing dog can also make it easier for seniors to strike up conversations with others and to meet new people. Without a dog, seniors might miss out on these valuable social opportunities.
Improved Quality of Life
Pets naturally improve a senior’s quality of life, too. It’s common for seniors to suffer from health issues, like vision problems, as they age. Over 10 million people in the United States have some sort of vision problem, and vision issues can range from nearsightedness to legal blindness.
Seniors who have vision, mobility, and other health issues can enjoy an improved quality of life from a pet. A cat, for instance, will be happy to sit in a senior’s lap regardless of whether they’re in a wheelchair or relaxing on the couch. Pets aren’t concerned about a senior’s health issue or physical restrictions, and playing with a pet can help seniors to stay active, entertained, and engaged.
In some cases, trained service dogs (while not pets) can help seniors as well, in different ways. Service dogs can perform many tasks, such as retrieving items, guiding those with vision issues, and even alerting others when a senior has a health issue, like low blood sugar or an impending seizure, or if they’re having a bad reaction to a medication they take.
Improved Physical Health
Pets also provide important physical health benefits for seniors. The simple act of caring for a pet increases a senior’s physical activity and can improve their physical health, including their cardiovascular health. With increased physical activity, seniors can develop improved muscle strength and even improve their balance.
Caring for a pet can also keep seniors from focusing on or worrying about their own health issues. Patting a cat or a dog can relieve stress, and keeping a pet can improve a senior’s cardiac health. People who care for a dog often live longer than people who do not have pets.
Bringing Home a Pet
Seniors who wish to bring home a pet will need to take steps to make their home safe. This should include identifying toxic substances and securely storing them, moving breakable items away so that a pet can’t knock them over, securing garbage so that the pet can’t access it, and keeping electrical cords, children’s toys, and other tempting items out of reach.
Adopting a pet can be a win-win situation for both a senior and a pet, as a senior gets the gift of unconditional companionship and the pet gets a second chance at a loving home. Seniors may choose to adopt a senior pet that may be a little more laid back and quieter than a younger animal. Some shelters offer discounts on particular pets, like senior pet specials or black cat specials. There are plenty of ways that seniors can bring a pet into their lives and enjoy the many benefits of pet ownership.
Noah Yarnol Rue is always looking where his next trip will take him . When he’s not traveling the world, he’s writing articles on the new things he learns. Noah also enjoys a good meme from time to time. You can find Noah on LinkedIn.