Seniors and Pets: A Winning Combination

Do you own a pet? If the answer is yes, you’re in luck. Pet ownership has been shown to offer physical, psychological and social benefits for all ages, but especially for seniors. This is due to the unique challenges that seniors face due to natural life changes, including decreased mobility, deteriorating health and reduced social contact.

According to the 2019 National Poll on Healthy Aging, sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, 55 percent of adults ages 50 to 80 have at least one pet (dogs were the most popular; then cats; then, hamsters, birds and fish), and most of these owners reported seeing benefits of some kind.

But the reported benefits of owning a pet were even more notable for older adults who live alone or struggle with their health. A total of 72 percent of owners said their pets help them manage their physical or emotional symptoms. Read on to learn more about how pets can help seniors live fuller, happier lives:

Physical Benefits

First, pets tend to encourage physical activity. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, about two-thirds of pet owners said their pets help them stay physically active and stick to a healthy routine. Pets can provide some degree of cardiovascular exercise through walking and grooming, and this mild activity can help stimulate the brain and improve appetite for seniors who struggle with eating.

Psychological Benefits

For seniors, having a pet as your companion will reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Nearly eight in 10 owners said their pets help them reduce stress, and nearly nine in 10 owners said they help them enjoy life and feel loved. Additionally, owning a pet can give seniors a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives as their former responsibilities and social contacts begin to fall away.

Social Benefits

Some studies have shown that if you already have a strong social network, owning a pet doesn’t make a significant difference in your happiness level. However, pet ownership can be vital for older adults, who, as a group, experience a high frequency of loneliness and social isolation.

A total of 65 pet owners also reported that having a pet helps them connect with other people. Why? Caring for a pet necessarily requires a level of connection with the outside world, whether that is taking your pet to the vet, groomer, pet store, the dog park or on walks in the neighborhood. Duties like these require owners to leave the house and engage with their environment.

What now?

If you’re interested in adopting a pet and you have confidence in your physical and financial ability to provide the necessary care, then it’s time to consider what kind of animal to adopt. Some tips: cats are best if you have mobility issues, since you don’t have to walk them, and a senior dog or cat tends to require less maintenance than a younger, more energetic pet.

If you’re interested in the benefits of a pet but not quite comfortable with the cost or the commitment, you might try pet sitting for a friend, or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Pet therapy can also be very beneficial for seniors, so consider reaching out to your local branch of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs to set up an appointment.

Pets at Golden West

Good news for pet owners! At Golden West Senior Living’s independent living apartments, seniors don’t have to give up their pets when they move in. For an additional, non-refundable security deposit accompanied by our signed Pet Policy, residents can bring their pets along with them, provided they can care for them on their own. To learn more about Golden West’s pet policy, contact us at (303) 444-3967.