Pet Ownership and Seniors

Benefits of Pet OwnershipAnimals play a huge role in our everyday lives. They comfort us when we need a pick me up, the play with us when we need a break, they give us exercise when they need to be walked, and most importantly, they greet us with overwhelming energy when we walk through the door. But, there are more benefits to be had by owning a pet than we may think, especially for seniors.

One study found that having your dog in the room lowered blood pressure better than taking a popular type of blood pressure medication (ACE inhibitor) when you are under stress. Other research has indicated that the simple act of stroking a pet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Pet ownership might also be an important source of social support that enhances well-being. Elderly individuals that had a dog or cat were better able to perform certain physical activities such as climbing stairs; bend, kneel, or stoop; taking medication; preparing meals; and bathe and dressing themselves. Whether you have a dog or cat for one month or for years doesn’t have an influence on how you perform these abilities. Simply having a pet in their presence increase their performance. With the responsibility of caring for a pet, seniors are creating a new purposefulness for their overall well-being by giving them a sense of purpose and routine.

Owning a pet that needs to be walked, such as a dog, also has immense health benefits. Pet owners who are active with their pets have the lowest mass body, fewer reported doctor visits and less sedentary time.

Another benefit of pet ownership is the ability to help battle symptoms of depression.  If depression makes you feel lonely, pets can break the cycle. Animals pick up on how you are feeling and tend to offer their own comfort by snuggling up next to you or sitting down at your feet. Animals can give you security, love and a sense of companionship that some elderly people can’t find elsewhere.

Whether or not you adopt a dog, cat or some other pet, the physical, mental, and social benefits for elderly individuals are worth it! Go to your local pet store and start looking for the perfect pet for you.