Increased isolation is a common problem for older adults. And it doesn’t just lead to feelings of loneliness and possibly depression. The effects of isolation to your physical health are well documented. But there’s a solution that can bring a surprising amount of joy to your life – getting an animal companion!
Bringing more life and energy into your home could be just what you need to keep pep in your step. Here’s a list of health benefits of pets for seniors:
Regular physical activity is a key component to health, especially for older adults. If you live alone, you might lose some motivation to keep up an active lifestyle, which can negatively affect your heart health and blood pressure. There’s no better exercise for seniors who are capable than a daily walk. And if you get yourself a dog, a daily walk, or even two, will become a necessary part of your day.
The best way to avoid loneliness is to make sure you’re not alone. A dog or cat is sure to be a loving companion. Not only will they be perfectly content with whatever space you can provide for them, they’ll always be thrilled to see you — and that would make anyone feel good.
It can also be deeply satisfying to take care of something that loves and appreciates you. A person’s desire to be needed lasts a lifetime, even after the kids have grown and become independent. A pet that depends on you for their well-being and happiness can bring you a welcome sense of purpose. The positive emotions an animal friend can bring you are some of the best health benefits of pets for seniors.
Along with exercise, as you’re out of your house and walking around your neighborhood, you’re far more likely to be able to engage with your neighbors. You’re also likely to meet other pet owners who will surely become friends. You automatically have something in common! You could even schedule regular walks with a friend or two. Your dogs will enjoy their friends, too.
Dog parks are more and more common these days, and getting out in the fresh air among a group of people who are all enjoying the day will keep you surrounded by activity and interest. And it’s a great reason to strike up casual conversation. One of the great health benefits of pets for seniors can be found by simply spending time among a group of active people.
Your dog or cat is going to need food and attention on a regular basis, and if you get yourself a dog, you’ll be getting yourself outside, maybe even every morning. This doesn’t have to feel like a burden. Having a reason to get out of bed every morning and adding some structure to your day can aid your sense of purpose. And having a friend who depends on you is always a good feeling.
Nothing drives a potential burglar away better than a barking dog. Even a little fella can be nice and loud when he wants to be. This can increase your feelings of safety when you’re at home, which can help with stress reduction. You could even be helping your heart health and blood pressure when you’re able to relax, knowing your ever-vigilant companion is always on duty. Even if their boldest move is to lick someone, it’s probably a good thing if their bark is worse than their bite.
Find the Pet That’s Right for You
You can make the right decision about whether or not a pet is the right move for you if you answer the following questions:
Have You Had a Pet Before?
A first-time pet owner can still be greatly rewarded, but a senior with experience in pet ownership will know what they’re getting into.
Can You Afford a Pet?
Different kinds of pets have different costs, but some degree of financial investment will be necessary. A dog can cost many hundreds of dollars per year in food and veterinary bills. If finances are a concern, you can consider a lower-cost, lower-maintenance pet, like a fish. It’s important to remember that you need to be able to pay for your new companion to be happy and cared for.
Are You Physically Able to Care for a Pet?
Any major physical limitations can lessen the health benefits of pets for seniors. Dogs are great for exercise, but if you’re not able to provide regular walks, you might want to consider a lower-maintenance pet. Or, you could factor a dog walker into your budget.
Do You Really Need to Start with a Puppy or Kitten?
The energy and training (and clean-up!) of a baby pet might make your adorable new companion more work than you bargained for. There is no shortage of adult pets that are ready for adoption. You’ll feel the deep satisfaction of giving your companion a home, and especially with dogs, an adult is likely to already be well-trained and calm. Some breeds are also better than others, so talk to shelter employees about breeds and individual dogs whose traits will be the best match.
What if Your Pet Needs a Home After Yours?
Just like any senior has to plan for the unexpected, you need to take your pet into consideration when you’re working out those plans, perhaps with family. If you find that you need to spend some time in the hospital or in rehabilitation, you’ll want to include your pet’s future into your plans so they don’t have to go back to a shelter.
Sedgebrook is a Pet-Friendly Community
We love our animal companions, and we’re well aware of the health benefits of pets for seniors. Along with a full range of health services, we have 72 acres of pet-friendly living, with plenty of green spaces, trees and water for you and your best friend to get out there and live life to the fullest.
To find out more about our pet-friendly community, contact us.