Pets Can Benefit Seniors

October 19, 2015
Pets can have a positive impact on a person's life.

Pets can have a positive impact on a person’s life.

Many who are taking care of elderly parents at home may find that a pet may have positive benefits for the senior members of the household.  If your elderly parents enjoy animals, you may want to pay a visit to the local animal shelter.

Pets play a special role

If a person is an animal person, he or she is already inclined to respond positively to a cat, dog, or other animal.  Even some seniors who have not previously shown an interest in pets may find themselves pleasantly surprised at the bond that they find with a new animal friend.

Many caregivers already have long, full days, and may be reluctant to add another component into their routine; after all, dogs must be walked, cats must be fed, and bird cages must be cleaned.  Still, there are reasons to consider a pet for a senior loved one:

  • Studies indicate that those who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure and less likelihood of depression when compared to those without pets.
  • Seniors over 65 who also own pets on average make almost one-third fewer visits to the doctor than do seniors who do not have pets in their lives.
  • Pet interaction can be both physically beneficial and emotionally restorative.  Playing with or walking  a pet provides physical exercise.  Also, serotonin and dopamine levels tend to rise after positive pet play, and this can make a person feel more at ease.
  • Having a pet can help spark social interaction.  If your senior loved one is able to participate in daily dog walkings, he or she will find that people are more likely to come over and interact with him or her.  Many people like to find out about both the dog that is being walked and the person doing the walking.  Similarly, a house cat or bird can make for a good topic of conversation with visitors or with friends communicating by phone.
  • Pets are good sounding boards. Those taking care of elderly parents at home may encounter periods in which a parent is non-communicative about issues troubling him or her.  Many people find it easier to talk over such problems with their pets; they may not find a solution to the problem, but they often feel better after talking about the problem and getting it out of their systems.

Finding a good pet for a senior loved one can make a big difference in his or her life.  It’s also very likely that a pet may make a positive difference in your own life; many caregivers find that they grow very fond of a loved one’s pet and reap some of the same benefits from the pet as their loved one does.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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