Getting old makes you feel lonely and socially isolated. While companionship is important for everyone, it’s especially crucial for senior adults whose social circles have shrunk over time. Fortunately, owning a pet can help plug that loneliness gap.
Read on to learn how older adults can benefit from owning pets.
Why Should Seniors Have Pets?
Here are several physical and mental health benefits that pets bring to seniors:
A research survey on U.S. adults reveals that loneliness in the U.S. reached epidemic levels in 2019. Sixty-one percent of the respondents mentioned feeling lonely, compared to 54% in 2018.
Pets provide companionship, which helps you feel less lonely, especially when living alone. Research shows that seniors who own pets are 36% less likely to experience loneliness compared to older adults who don’t own pets.
Caring for Pets Provides a Sense of Purpose
Old age means you have a lot of free time for yourself. If you don’t have something meaningful to do, you may end up with negative thoughts in your mind.
But caring for a pet can give your life a purpose. It creates a routine that keeps you busy every day. So you have something to focus on rather than your physical difficulties.
It Helps Seniors Find Peace in the Moment
An animal companion personifies the sense of here and now. And this becomes infectious in older adults. So you find peace in the present and are less worried about the past or future.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that pet ownership leads to various health benefits. These include reduced stress, PTSD, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and anxiety.
Owning a dog means you’ll have to take daily walks, which soon become a lasting exercise routine. Research reveals that dog owners walk twenty-two minutes more daily compared to those who don’t own a dog.
Besides improving your mobility, daily walks with your dog can lower your blood pressure, improve heart health, and ease stress.
A Pet Provides Social Interaction
Taking your pet on a stroll around your neighborhood can be an excellent way to meet people. You can make meaningful connections with the rest of the community members and create a social support network.
Here are some animals that make ideal pets for seniors.
Best Animals for the Elderly
Dogs make ideal companions for seniors. You can opt for smaller breeds that are light enough for you to carry and train to walk calmly on a leash. You also don’t need plenty of space for the dog to run around in the house.
Meanwhile, older dogs are ideal for going for walks. They bring a sense of security. They’re also happy to join you on the sofa to read a book or watch TV.
Unlike dogs, cats are easy pets. They don’t need daily walks and are low maintenance. If you spend most of your time at home because of reduced mobility, older cats make for excellent companions. They’re happy to spend time indoors curled up on a sofa or a warm lap.
Older cats need only 20 to 30 minutes of playtime every day. Despite your reduced mobility, you can still use a laser beam toy to play with your cat from the comfort of your seat.
Parakeets are colorful and affectionate birds that take delight in human interaction. They’re small birds that are fond of flying around. You can house them in a cage if you don’t want them flying around the house.
They provide excellent companionship in assisted living facilities where dogs and cats are not around. Parakeets are less noisy than parrots.
Rabbits are not as popular as dogs, cats, and birds, but they are small and less noisy. This makes them an ideal pet option in a retirement community. Rabbits enjoy social interaction provided they receive attention from their special person.
You can take them outside for a bit of playtime. They’re also more than happy to nestle in your lap for brushing while you read a book or watch TV. And this provides an avenue for you to unwind and bond with your fluffy friend.
Rabbits are also low-maintenance, just like cats. They only need daily meals and freshwater. They can learn to use litter boxes and thus do well indoors.
If you’re unsure if you should get a pet for a senior, here are 10 questions you can ask to gauge readiness.
10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Pet for a Senior
Is the senior set in their ways?
Make sure your elderly loved one can accept change in their life. That’s because an animal companion will affect their entire daily routine.
Have they had a pet before?
It’s ideal if the elderly person has owned a pet before. First-timers can also make great pet owners if they’re open to the idea.
Does the senior have any disabilities or functional limitations?
Dogs encourage daily walks for seniors. But for those seniors with reduced mobility, low- maintenance pets like cats may be ideal.
Would a therapeutic or emotional support animal be beneficial?
Those who are severely impaired may benefit from specially trained therapy pets.
What age pet would be best?
Young pets require a great deal of training and intensive care, which may not be ideal for older adults. Older pets are often well-trained already. But may come with some physical limitations or ailments.
What temperament would be a good fit for the senior?
You need to match the personality of the pet with that of your elderly loved one.
Is the pet healthy?
Pets need a vet examination before adoption. Otherwise, unhealthy pets may negatively affect the immune system of the older adult.
One pet or two?
A pair of pets may provide companionship to each other rather than their owner.
Are finances an issue?
Caring for a pet is a long-term financial undertaking. Consider the senior’s financial budget before bringing them an animal companion.
Is there a backup plan in place for the pet?
You must have a contingency plan in place for your beloved animal before emergency strikes. For example, who would take care of the pet if you passed away?
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubt that pet ownership brings myriad advantages to the elderly. If you’re looking for a pet for your senior adult, you can check out Pets for the Elderly, which matches senior pets with the elderly.
For seniors aged 60+, the organization sorts out the adoption fees and provides financial support for pet food supplies, vaccinations, and veterinary bills.