Companion pets for seniors can have a huge positive impact on your loved one’s life. The health benefits of pets for seniors are both physical and social. However, it’s important both you and the senior in your life know the pros and cons of pet ownership.
What Are the Benefits of Pets for Seniors?
A study from the University of Missouri (MU) College of Veterinary Medicine found that seniors with a strong bond to their dog were more likely to walk their pet, and spend more time doing so. It also states that dog walking is associated with a lower BMI, reduced doctor visits, and more frequent exercise.
Another study indicates there is increasing evidence that positive relationships with pets can help seniors cope with stress. The act of caretaking for an animal has been shown to naturally lower blood pressure, steady heart rate, and help with PTSD symptoms in seniors.
Be sure to help your senior loved one curate a positive bond with their new pet. Having a bond that is mutually beneficial is key. As human beings, we will never be stress-free, but having a pet certainly seems to help us deal with our stress in a healthy way.
As seniors spend more time alone, it is not uncommon for feelings of loneliness and isolation to creep in. These feelings are not only unpleasant but can have real negative health consequences. It is important for seniors to get regular social interaction with friends and family or to seek assistance through companion care.
Having a pet gives seniors the opportunity to interact with other people. For example, someone may stop to pet the animal while your loved one is walking them. Or, they may meet and befriend fellow pet owners in their neighborhood or in online groups.
Pros and Cons of Pet Ownership for Older Adults
While pet ownership can be a great idea for many seniors, pet ownership does come with responsibilities and drawbacks that should be carefully considered. Every senior’s situation is unique, but generally, pet ownership has common pros and cons.
Seniors can find a new purpose in retirement through pet ownership. When seniors no longer have children to look after or a regular job to go to, they can sometimes lose a sense of purpose. A pet can help fill this gap.
Pets can also encourage seniors to be more social. There are many pet clubs and pet groups where seniors can bond with fellow pet owners and share tips.
Finally, pets can offer a good way for seniors to bond with younger generations. Seniors can teach their grandchildren how to care for animals, and love for a pet can bring families closer together.
There are some challenges that should be considered before adopting a pet. First, seniors are at a higher risk of developing health issues, which can make it more challenging to complete the tasks required to take care of a pet.
Second, seniors need to have a support system in place to take care of their pet in case they suddenly need to leave home for travel or an emergency.
Finally, while some pet costs are predictable, others are not. Unexpected veterinary bills or animal medical conditions can add a new element of financial stress for seniors and their families.
Key Questions to Consider Before Adopting a Pet
Deciding whether to adopt a pet should not be made lightly. Pets rely on their owners 100% for their survival, so seniors need to be ready and willing to take on that responsibility. There are a few key questions to consider before moving forward with pet adoption.
What Are the Best Pets for Seniors?
Every senior is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to companion pets for seniors. However, cats, small dogs, and rabbits are popular choices for many seniors.
Can They Afford a Pet?
Some seniors have planned very carefully for retirement, while others have a little less flexibility. While pets generally aren’t a huge financial commitment, unexpected issues can always pop up and should be taken into account beforehand.
Do They Have a Support System?
Caring for a pet is not always possible with the efforts of just one person. Unexpected health issues may come up, or a need for travel may arise. Seniors should have friends or family who can step in to assist when needed. There may also be local programs that offer pet care assistance for senior citizens.
Do We Have a Plan?
Just as seniors need to plan for assets in their will, they need to plan for the future care of their pet as well. Seniors should have a plan in place that ensures their pet will be taken care of in the event of a long-term emergency or death. Some pet adoption facilities may even require this plan before approval of the adoption. Despite it’s numerous benefits, taking on a pet is a big responsibility, and not a decision to be made lightly.
In-Home Pet Care Assistance for Senior Citizens
All things considered, adopting a pet can be a very positive addition to a senior’s life. Advanced Nursing + Home Support is dedicated to making seniors feel well-cared for and empowered in their everyday lives. We deliver the highest quality care and medical support straight to your loved one’s home.
From companion care to memory care, our staff has an array of expertise to meet any needs. For seniors who are pet owners, we can help with everyday tasks needed to care for the pet. We also take some care responsibilities off the senior’s plate so they can focus more on the needs of their furry friends. We understand the health benefits of pets for seniors and seek to make each senior feel valued and heard. Contact us today at 240-474-0884 to get started.