Pets are affectionate, they love their owners unconditionally, and they all have their own, quirky personalities. Having a companion animal has many benefits, especially for seniors living alone.
Throughout the country, there are programs that pair seniors with healthy but abandoned pets. One such dog rescue program in San Francisco, the Muttville’s Seniors for Seniors Program, matches seniors over the age of 62 with senior dogs. They even waive the adoption fee for all participating seniors. All dogs receive a wellness exam, which includes vaccinations and a dental exam. They also give a welcome kit to adopters, which include a harness and collar, leash, dog bowls, doggy bed, and a starter supply of food and medication. And if your circumstance changes and you can’t take care of the dog anymore, they’ll take the pet back and find the dog another home.
Sometimes seniors are not able to care for an animal on their own, due to health problems, mobility issues, and other circumstances. If this is the case, enlisting the help of a professional home caregiver or an available loved one to care for the pet can make it possible for seniors to still experience the benefits of having a companion animal.
Benefits of Companion Animals for Seniors
Many studies have been done on the health benefits of owning and caring for an animal. Here are a few of those benefits:
Having a pet around means that seniors are never alone. They have a constant companion, making them feel less isolated from the world. Taking a dog for a walk will also put older people in contact with other people from their community.
Our brains release endorphins when petting an animal. Having a pet is good for our mental health, and people with a companion animal have lower rates of depression.
Seniors are more likely to reach the recommended level of physical activity for their age when having a pet, especially a dog which needs daily walks. Being active every day makes us feel better and healthier, and walking with a dog is more fun than doing it alone.
Having to look after and feeding another being gives seniors a sense of purpose, which is why pet owners tend to live longer than non-pet owners.
Seniors with pets have less stress, tension, and anxiety, and as a result, they also have less sleeping problems than seniors without pets.
Pets intuitively know when we’re feeling off or sad, and when seniors have a rough day, pets will try to comfort or cheer them up.
Pets often have quirky habits which make us laugh. Laughter is good for our emotional health as well as our heart health.
Pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Senior pet owners have a lower risk of heart disease. About 1 million people die of heart disease every year. According to one study, animal companions may save 30,000 people from dying of heart disease.
Seniors with pets experience less medical issues. They visit the doctor 21% less than seniors without pets, and recover faster from surgery and illness, according to one study.
A pet helps seniors focus on something other than their aging, losses, and physical issues. This improves memory, and, as some studies found, people with pets are more likely to remember good experiences from their past.
Apart from providing companionship, dogs can also provide a service to seniors and people with disabilities. The most common kind of service animal is a guide dog for a blind person, but dogs can also perform other tasks like carrying stuff or alerting others when their owner is in danger, such as having an epilepsy or heart attack.
Things to Keep in Mind before Adopting a Pet
Although there are many benefits of owning a companion animal, there are certain things seniors need to keep in mind when deciding whether to get a pet or which kind of pet to adopt:
A senior who is still mobile and able to go for daily walks will benefit from adopting a dog. A senior with mobility issues may do better with a less active pet, such as a cat that can curl up on their lap or next to them in bed.
A senior dog may be a better option for an older person as they are less active and won’t need too many long walks each day.
Taking care of a pet can be cumbersome. Seniors who aren’t able to look after a pet on their own can benefit from the help of a home caregiver. This way, seniors can benefit from having a companion animal without having to manage all of the responsibilities.
It is advisable for older adults to make contingency plans for their pet in case something happens to them so that the pet doesn’t end up back in a shelter after they’re gone. Also make sure someone, such as a home caregiver, is available to take the pet to a vet in case of an emergency.
If you need any help deciding whether to get a pet, what kind of pet to get, or need help caring for your companion animal, you’re welcome to get in contact with Alegre Health Care. We would love to help you adopt and care for your companion animal.