Animals and seniors make a great pair. Loneliness often plagues older generations, and pets are a great way to fill that void. Moreover, while it’s true they can make you feel happier, did you know pets also provide seniors with health benefits?
Whether a dog, cat, bird or guinea pig, seniors need pets for many reasons. Here are a few that can help you decide if owning one is right for you or a loved one.
For seniors who do not live with family nor have relatives close by, a pet can be a daily source of support. Knowing there’s someone else around can ease loneliness and even depression. Pets can give unconditional love and even act as an attentive listener. Their companionship can provide comfort to help seniors get through difficult times. When someone becomes part of your everyday life, bonds are formed — something seniors may be lacking as family and friends move away or pass on.
Sense of Purpose
The kids are all grown up and self-sufficient, a situation in which seniors can feel like they are no longer needed. Pets require care and attention, restoring their senior owners’ sense of purpose. Pets become a motivator for seniors to wake up each morning to feed, walk or let them outside, and pets can help seniors find a routine for their own daily lifestyle.
Promote Physical Contact
The power of touch is great: Hugging releases oxytocin, and touching can even stop regions of the brain from responding to threat clues. Older people may begin to lack physical contact, but can renew this by petting a dog, cat or other household pet.
Pets are a great stress reliever. Studies have proved owning a pet lowers blood pressure and heart and breathing rates by boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine, especially when touching is involved, as indicated above. When you are feeling stressed, having a soft, furry friend put their paws on you, lick your tears, or sit beside you and purr can soothe and relieve your tension.
Whether it’s meeting new people when taking Fido to the dog park or laughing at Fluffy playing with her new toy, pets can be quite entertaining. They can help seniors overcome social isolation and promote laughter, nature’s best medicine.
Remember, pets need you as much as you need them. Giving a homeless pet a loving home brings satisfaction in knowing you helped someone when they needed it most. Pets have much to offer, and while they can’t replace human relationships they can certainly complement them and make a senior’s life more full.
Learn more about ways to make your house a home as you age with our guide, Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors.