Pets are every man’s beloved companion that provides company, entertainment, and protection. Some people have become so invested with their pets that they’re willing to invest in their food, shelter, and upkeep. When they pass away, other pet owners preserve their pets through taxidermy as permanent memorabilia.
Pet ownership is more common among families and young people. But when it comes to seniors, the idea of owning a pet involves a lot of considerations. After all, taking care of a pet comes with a huge responsibility. You have to consider your lifestyle, pet size, breed, and maintenance.
Despite the responsibilities involved in pet ownership, seniors can greatly benefit from having pets as companions. A pet can enhance a senior’s health and well-being by reducing stress, blood pressure, and loneliness.
Whether you’re a senior looking for an ideal pet or a family member planning to give a pet as a present to a senior loved one, this guide will discuss all the important considerations of pet ownership for seniors.
Benefits of pet ownership
Apart from companionship, pets give seniors a sense of purpose and responsibility, which leads to feelings of pride, accomplishment, and security. Growing old and falling into a routine makes life seem monotonous. But with pets, a dog or a cat can be a best friend, family member, and medicine rolled into one.
According to a 2018 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons, one in three Americans beyond the age of 45 suffer from loneliness. The rate is expected to rise as seniors choose to live alone and age in place. When left unchecked, chronic loneliness results in depression, inflammation, cognitive decline, and increased weight gain.
To overcome this health concern, many seniors find comfort in the presence of pets. Aside from easing loneliness and depression, pets can lower heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones, and promote positive feelings.
Pets have a significant effect on the symptoms of depression and isolation. As constant companions, pets encourage their owners to be present rather than dwelling in the past and the future. In fact, petting drives the animal to release oxytocin, prolactin, and serotonin, all of which helps in enhancing overall mood.
Having a pet also motivates the owner to be more active than they normally would. The biggest benefit comes from dog walking since it serves as an extra activity that reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Plus, walking with a dog every morning offers a vitamin D boost, which improves mood, wellness, and bone health.
Choosing a pet
When selecting a pet, it’s important to consider your lifestyle, health, and your ability to handle it. Every animal requires different levels of attention, from food, health, maintenance, and physical activity.
Dogs make wonderful pets as they encourage their owners to walk more and increase physical activities. But those with disabilities and physical limitations may find dogs a little demanding. In this case, you may consider less active pets, such as cats, birds, fish, or other small animals.
Seniors with impairments may qualify to receive assistance from therapy pets. These animals are specifically trained to help their owners function normally in everyday life. Emotional support animals are a great example of animal-assisted therapy to help people cope with negative situations and experience love and care.
Adopting a puppy or kitten may not be an ideal pet for seniors. Their level of energy requires a huge amount of attention and care, which is more than a senior can provide. Also, owning a young pet may not be practical since they can outlive the senior owner. The same goes for senior pets since they are likely to develop illness and physical limitations that require extra care.
Caring for pets
There are plenty of ways to make pet ownership much easier for seniors. Here are some tips:
- Use water dispensers and automatic feeders to reduce the number of refilling dishes.
- Work with a veterinarian who does house calls or a vet clinic near your area.
- Reach out to family members or neighbors if you can’t give the dog a bath, clean the fish tank, and other physically demanding activities.
- Hire someone that offers assistance to senior pet owners.
- Designate a guardian in case you’re unable to care for the pet.
Pets make wonderful companions regardless of your age. But they can offer more surprising benefits for seniors. While loneliness continues to be a health concern among older adults, pet ownership offers benefits that will help seniors live a more healthy and joyful life. So if you think you’re functional and healthy enough to own a pet, go ahead and welcome a new furry companion in your home.