Are Pets Good For Seniors?

Post by: Eastlands Estate, 28 May 2019

Getting older is often a time of significant change. Your children leave home, you retire from full-time work, and very often, decide to move from your long-time family home into something smaller and more manageable. Within a relatively short space of time, your life takes on a completely different look and rhythm. This can be stressful while you take time adjusting to this new way of living. This is the time when a pet can be a great comfort to a senior, giving them renewed purpose and providing a much-needed “something” to love and take care of, now that your children are no longer at home.

There are hundreds of studies that show how pet ownership in seniors and the elderly can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase physical activity and combat loneliness.

In this study, for example, conducted amongst pet owners aged 50 to 80, results showed that pets reduced stress in 79 percent of respondents. 73 percent said having a pet gave them a sense of purpose, while 64 percent said their pet helped them be more physically active.

Pets also provide a host of less tangible benefits. Dr Jay Granat, a psychotherapist, says: “Tomorrow can be a scary concept for some seniors. Dogs and cats live very much in the present, and don’t worry about tomorrow. This sense of the here and now tends to rub off on people.”

Pets also counteract feelings of loneliness and depression, and there is actually a science-backed reason for this: After just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal, a chain reaction starts in the brain. Levels of cortisol (our stress hormone) reduce, and production of serotonin (our feel-good hormone) increases. The result is an immediate drop in heart rate, stress and blood pressure.

Which Pets Are Best For Seniors?
Walking is fantastic exercise – especially for seniors. It’s low impact, can be done anywhere, and doesn’t require any expensive equipment. Just a strong pair of suitable shoes, and you’re good to go. This is why dogs make such great pets for everyone, but particularly older people. Studies show that dog walking in older adults helped lower body mass index (BMI) and resulted in fewer visits to the doctor.

Another study of 1,570 peopled aged 60 years or over revealed owning a dog was associated with a 3.34 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure. To put that in plainer English, a reduction of just 2mm means you’re six percent less likely to have a stroke, four percent less likely to have a heart attack, and three percent less likely to die prematurely!

Of course, not all seniors feel they could cope with the demands of a large dog, which is why many smaller breeds, such as maltese poodles, King Charles spaniels and shih tzus are great choices. All three breeds are happy in smaller homes, and don’t need a lot of outdoor space. They are also usually a comfortable size and weight for seniors to pick up without problems.

Cats are fabulous pets for seniors who aren’t as physically able as others. They are very independent, only needing food and love from their owners. They are also very quiet, and are an easy size and weight to pick up, or to have snoozing happily on your lap in the evenings! Shorter haired breeds are less maintenance than longer haired ones, however all cats make excellent pets for older people.

Although you can’t pick up and love fish, they still make great pets for seniors. A large and complicated aquarium is probably not the way to go, but a small tank with a couple of fish is perfect. Fish are colourful and interesting to watch. They are never still, and the constant, graceful movement can be very calming – or even slightly hypnotic – to watch.

Questions To Ask Before Getting A Pet
It’s obvious that pets are great for seniors, but that doesn’t mean all seniors are great for pets! There are a few things to consider before you make the commitment:

Are Finances An Issue?
It’s not always easy to talk about money, but even the lowest maintenance pets require feeding, vets visits and occasional medication. Many seniors end up looking after their pet’s needs before their own, which is not sustainable or desirable. Make sure you do your homework first to see if you’ll be able to afford your pet before making the decision.

What Age Pet Is Best?
Puppies and kittens require a lot of care and energy, so may not be the ideal choice for a senior. Young pets might also outlive their owners, which then creates the problem of who will take care of them. On the other hand, a very elderly pet might incur medical bills that you can’t afford. Try to choose a pet that is old enough to have already been trained (in the case of a dog) but young enough to enjoy years of companionship with its owner.

How Many Pets Should I Get?
Many people think more than one pet would be better, as it’s companionship for the pets. But that isn’t the point of a pet for a senior. The idea is that the animal bonds with its owner, not with a fellow pet. Two or more pets are also a lot more work and incur greater expenses. One pet is definitely the ideal number for older people.

At Eastlands Mature Lifestyle Estate, we understand the many benefits pet ownership has for seniors. This is why we have a Welcome Pet policy for all our residents. To find out more, call for a chat with one of our friendly staff, or arrange a visit to see for yourself why we’re not your typical retirement estate.



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