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How Owning a Pet Can Improve the Life of a Senior

Senior woman hugging a yellow labrador.

It is not uncommon for aging adults to feel bouts of loneliness while enjoying their retirement life. Transitioning from a 9-to-5 job surrounded by colleagues, customers or clients to a lifestyle of 24 hours of free-time and relaxation for yourself can induce these bouts and feelings of loneliness. Humans, at any stage of life, deserve comfort and companionship and that’s why many older Americans today benefit from having a pet in the house.

For many people around the world, pets to them are more than just animals, they are family. The benefits of owning a pet, whether a cat, dog, rabbit, or bird are endless and within this article we will explore how a senior may benefit from having a pet in the home.

A senior man sitting with many cats.

1. Eases Loneliness

Especially once an aging adult becomes an empty nester or their partner passes, seeking to find companionship elsewhere is completely normal and healthy. Adopting a pet, such as a dog or cat, can offer seniors limitless company and unconditional love while encouraging a range of positive emotions which can help ease stress, anxiety and depression.

2. Reduces Stress & Lowers Blood Pressure

A study conducted in the mid-1980’s has proven that there are positive psychological effects to petting dogs, cats and other sorts of companion animals which can help reduce levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) in the body. Reducing stress and putting our mind and body in a relaxation state may ultimately help in lowering or maintaining a healthy blood pressure level.

A senior man and woman petting a golden retriever.

3. Increases Social Interaction

Pets can make seniors more social by serving as ice-breakers and conversation-starters which technically makes them a wingman (or wingpet, to be more accurate!) for more human-to-human friendships. Seniors can then benefit from these social interactions by creating meaningful new relationships with the people around them. Especially for the older adults that live within an independent or assisted living community, these communities may offer dog parks where they can get to know their neighbors and their fur babies which can lead to long-lasting friendships.

4. Provides a Form of Physical Activity

Having a pet may require more excursions outside for potty walks, trips to the dog park or visits to the pet store. Owning a pet can help an older adult establish a healthy routine in their life and even get out on regular walks. It’s even as easy as being physically active within their home by playing with their pet, such as bending over to pick up a ball, wagging a cat toy in different directions or playing chase.

A senior woman feeding a cat.

5. Offers a Sense of Purpose

The responsibility that comes with taking care of a pet is huge. The requirement of care can vary depending on the pet of choice. All pets require food, water, exercise, attention and care, at the absolute least. This caregiving role can help older adults fill a void that was created when their last child left the nest and the pet can help rekindle their sense of purpose.

Cats, dogs, fish and birds are all great options for older adults looking for companionship. Before you look into adopting a pet, make sure you or your loved one fully understand the responsibility that comes with owning a pet. These animals aren’t temporary but should be welcomed in as if they were your own family, because, well, that is exactly what they are and they deserve the same love and attention as if they were a member of your family.

If you think you are ready to welcome a new addition to your family in this new chapter of life, we suggest first checking your local animal rescues or humane societies in your area. There are many animals eager to be held and hugged in a loving home.

If you are from the Ventura County area, here are some important links to help you find your fur-ever friend...


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