Pet Ownership Benefits Seniors in Many Ways
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Older adult’s lives are often greatly improved by the love and companionship offered by their pets. Animals fill a void in the lives of the elderly who are alone without friends or loved ones. Pets can be a great way for seniors to meet new friends and initiate conversations. Recent studies show the benefits of pet ownership for seniors aside from support and companionship:
- Journal of Community Health Nursing – a study found that older women who developed an attachment with pets were more resistant to the negative effect that loneliness had on their overall general health.
- Walking a pet encourages exercise and a Canadian study found that dog owners walked nearly twice as much per week, 300 minutes compared with the 168 minutes, than their dog free counterparts clocked.
Studies have also found that pet owners have lower blood pressure in stressful situations and have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets. Pet owners over 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets. A December 2011 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that pet owners had greater self-esteem and tended to be less fearful than people without pets. It has also been shown that pets ease depression and agitation and improve nutrition among nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Despite all of these benefits, owning a pet is not for all seniors. Those most likely to benefit are seniors who love and appreciate the joy pets can bring and who are willing to invest the time, attention and financial resources that pet ownership requires. Only seniors willing to take on the personal responsibility for the care and financial commitment of a pet should consider pet ownership.
Allergies are the most common health risk of pet ownership but another health risk to consider for seniors contemplating pet ownership is falls caused by the pets themselves or their belongings. “Over 86,000 people per year have to go to the emergency room because of falls involving their dogs or cats, and these fractures can be devastating for the elderly,” said Judy Steven, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A senior with increasing mobility issues should be cognizant of the fall risk posed by their pets and take steps to mitigate the risk.
Sometimes seniors with mobility issues and chronic health problems often face challenges to providing basic pet care resulting in the heartbreaking decision to give up a pet. Sometimes seniors are faced with the painful decision to give up a cat or dog because they can no longer provide the care an animal needs, walking a dog, changing a litter box, trips to the vet or shopping for pet food. Seniors Helping Seniors can assist in these situations by providing the services that senior pet owners need to keep their pets with them.