The chance to receive unconditional love is one reason many seniors keep pets. In fact, most people consider their pets to be members of the family. Enjoying a bond with a pet offers seniors several health benefits, from providing companionship to helping to lower blood pressure.
1. Pets Help Increase Physical Activity
Seniors who walk their dogs daily exercise their bodies. Increased physical activity levels lead to lower body mass index. Due to the elderly exercising moderately or vigorously, they tend to have fewer doctor’s visits and less limitations performing the activities of daily living.
Moderate-intensity activity is described as brisk walking at three miles per hour (20 minutes per mile). Adults require at least two-and-a-half hours of weekly aerobic activity to enhance brain health, improve muscle strength and reduce risk for diabetes. Seniors who walk dogs reap the rewards of physical fitness.
2. Pets Promote Physical Health
While walking a dog increases a senior’s activity levels, pet ownership leads to additional, substantial health effects. Pet owners, for instance, display lower blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels and posses a decreased risk for heart disease—especially in comparison to non-owners.
Senior pet owners ward off their risk of death from heart disease. A 12-year study of pet owners concluded that 11 percent of individuals had a lower risk for a heart attack; plus, 33 percent had a decreased risk of death during the study simply by caring for a pet.
Heart health gets a significant boost when seniors feel less stress and depression, have opportunities to socialize and stay physically active. Owning a dog plays a big role in promoting these factors that contribute to elderly individuals’ improved heart health.
An alternate explanation to these research findings is that seniors may already possess the resources, time and physical energy to care for a dog. Already having these characteristics may be one cause of senior pet owners’ physical and emotional health and longevity.
3. Pets Encourage Emotional Wellbeing
Having a pet of any kind is a significant contributor to emotional wellbeing. Mood is elevated when seniors stroke their furry companions. Petting an animal reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and spurs the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Seniors with dementia benefit remarkably when around animals. The loneliness and isolation that surrounds individuals with dementia results in depression. A dog’s unconditional love and social support, however, never fails to fill that painful emotional void in the elderly with dementia.
When seniors take their dogs for a walk around the neighborhood, strangers may smile or strike up a conversation centered around the dog. The result is increased social connection with others, and a path toward loosening the grip of senior isolation and loneliness.
Elderly individuals who adopt a dog feel enriched by the animal’s companionship. Home-bound seniors, for instance, who lack the mobility to go out and socialize as often as they used to, receive daily attention from their furry friends. A dog’s outgoing personality can dramatically shift seniors’ moods.
Plus, animals live in the present, meaning they focus on situations here and now. Being attuned to the present rubs off onto their pet owners. Rather than remain preoccupied with physical ailments or woes about aging, seniors get a welcome distraction via their pets.
4. The Right Pet Makes a Positive Difference
While dogs are excellent companions for seniors who are mobile and have the energy to go on daily walks, diverse animals may be appropriate for older people of varying abilities. Remember that adopting a pet will require modifications to a senior’s daily routine.
Less mobile seniors may opt for low-maintenance pets, like a cat or bird. A kitten or puppy, however, will require intensive care, which seniors may be unable to give. Consider the lifespan of the pet, too. Birds have lengthy lifespans, while young animals are likely to outlive their owners.
While the more the merrier is a proverbial truth, several pets may be too overwhelming for a senior to handle. In homes with two pets, the animals tend to bond with each other instead of with their owner. One animal is likely to shower the senior with undivided attention.
Expenses of Pet Ownership
Pets are an expense. A puppy costs $800 in food, veterinary care and grooming in its first year. An aquarium of fish is an affordable, low-maintenance option at $235 in annual expenses. Pay to have the pet examined by a vet prior to adoption, as some animals carry disease.
When a senior’s financial and physical health limit their choice of pets, recent technology offers a solution. Robotic pets, from cats to dogs that simulate live animals, are readily available. The cats purr and the dogs roll over, but do not require maintenance—an ideal option for some seniors.
Caregivers for Companionship
While a loving pet can enrich a senior’s life, a human touch is also necessary. Assisting Hands Home Care provides the attention and personal care that the elderly need in order to thrive in their home environment. Our caregivers tend to the daily non-medical needs of our home care recipients.
When your loved one walks her dog, a professional caregiver from our team will accompany her to promote confidence on uneven terrain. We ensure seniors receive the daily exercise they need to stay physically healthy. Caregivers also provide transportation, such as to local parks or appointments.
Additional senior care services from Assisting Hands Home Care include meal preparation, so that your loved one consumes a healthy diet every day, and help with the activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing and grooming. We also assist with light household chores to ensure a tidy living space.
Families are encouraged to consult Assisting Hands Home Care for compassionate home care services. We’ll promptly set up a free in-home consultation and prepare a care plan that meets your loved one’s daily needs.