What are the health benefits of pets for older adults?
Pets are family members who require attention, care, and love, much like people. However, the love and care shown by pet owners to their animals are reciprocal. Our pets enrich our lives in countless ways, from strengthening our bonds to raising our spirits.
Caption: Owning a pet as a senior can be truly a wonderful experience, and the best part is that there are plenty of health benefits of pets for older adults.
Alt-tag: An elderly couple sitting in a restaurant and holding their dog.
Having a pet has been shown to have numerous positive effects on human health, too. Humans who have pets tend to have more fulfilling lives and have longer, healthier existences overall. Pets can also help you overcome different life obstacles. For instance, there is a strong connection between pets and addiction recovery. So if you or your loved one are struggling, adopting a pet can help your recovery process.
However, one group of people can significantly benefit from having a furry best friend, and those are older adults. Many seniors’ ability to participate in different activities declines as they age. Plus, seniors who live alone are more vulnerable to the negative effects of social isolation. But here’s where pets come to the rescue, so let’s find out the most significant health benefits of pets for older adults.
Pets improve your mental health
One of the biggest benefits of owning a pet is that you’ll feel instant improvement in your mental health. This is especially true if you experience loneliness or isolation, which are very common among older adults.
However, having a furry companion by your side to take care of and spend time with quickly changes that. Those who suffer from mental health issues may find relief by establishing a regular schedule for walking and feeding their pets.
On top of that, pets help lower your anxiety, tension, and melancholy. In times of distress, your pet quickly picks up on the vibe and responds accordingly. You probably know exactly what we mean if you have owned a pet. In fact,animal-assisted therapy has proven successful in treating PTSD, anxiety, and depression because of the intuitive nature of support and therapy animals.
Pets can help improve your fitness
One of the most important things for older adults is to stay active, but it’s often easier said than done because people lack motivation. The accountability of taking your pet for a walk every day, no matter the weather, can help you stick with your walking routine in the long run.
In fact, research suggests that dog owners take an extra 22 minutes per day to exercise. A regular, moderate-intensity 20-minute walk has been shown to improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. So if you want to improve your fitness, it’s clear what you should do.
Pets can help you recover
The older we get, the more it takes us to recover from any health condition. However, having a pet to care for and love can significantly aid your recovery. This is mainly because having a pet will keep you more active.
It has been shown that keeping a positive mindset throughout and after a health crisis might hasten a person’s recovery. So when you’re feeling under the weather, your animal companion might serve as a welcome diversion. Even just cuddling a dog is beneficial and can instantly lift your spirits. That’s why many healthcare facilities, rehabilitation institutes, and long-term care facilities have implemented pet visitation programs.
The results of a study conducted by the University of Michigan indicated that 70% of pet owners reported their pet aids in the management of physical or mental symptoms, and 46% reported their pet aids in the management of pain. On top of that, people with terminal illnesses benefit greatly from having a pet visit them in the hospital. Pets aid their owners in dealing with discomfort and interacting with medical staff when combined with animal-assisted activities. Quality of life and treatment response both increased for these patients.
Pets help keep your heart healthy
It turns out that the unconditional love you get from pets benefits your heart and helps you live longer. Regular contact with a pet has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Caption: As a result of their efforts to keep their pets healthy, seniors with pets end up needing fewer doctor visits and enjoying better health overall.
Alt-tag: An elderly woman sitting on a sofa, reading a book, and petting her dog.
In fact, the Journal of the American Heart Association reports that seniors who own pets (especially dogs) are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Studying over 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom, researchers found that dog ownership was linked to a 24% reduction in all-cause mortality.
There are plenty more health benefits of pets for older adults, but hopefully, the ones we’ve listed in this article inspire you to at least consider welcoming a furry friend into your home. You can start by checking if you qualify for an emotional support animal and take it from there. Trust us, becoming a pet owner as a senior will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.