Seniors and Their Pets…Who’s Saving Who?
By: Taylor Rogers
As a loved one ages and moves into retirement, you may see a decline in both their overall happiness and physical health. One proven way to combat this and provide a healthy transition into retirement is by introducing a new companion into their life. Owning and caring for a pet is a great way to improve a senior citizens physical, mental and emotional health. While aging, seniors often lose their sense of purpose. Whether it may be a dog, cat, fish, or any other animal, having a pet by their side will create a sense of companionship and add an emotional connection into their life. This fresh sense of purpose can be especially important due to the incredibly difficult times with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of a loved one is also a common trauma that brings depression. Seniors tend to struggle with loneliness and self-isolation. Loneliness can raise a senior’s risk of depression, heart attack and stroke. Pets can bring energy and activity back into their life. Caring for a pet provides structure and routine while giving them something to talk about and offering them comfort. Owning and taking care of an animal also causes senior citizens to invest into their lives again by giving them something to commit to. This newfound company has also been proven to lower stress levels, give seniors a confidence boost and make them feel more comfortable with social interaction.
The mental and emotional rewards of owning a pet result in physical benefits as well. Studies have shown that having a simple feeding and walking routine with a dog or cat, improves a senior’s mobility, weight control, muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness. The increase of activity has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol while also enhancing overall brain health. Pets aid in stimulating the brain which is increasingly beneficial for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. In addition, pets lower the levels of the fight or flight hormone, cortisol, and increase the levels in the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Having a blissful and purposeful life can become a challenge for the elderly. Tending to and cherishing an animal will bring back the sense of meaning and joy into the lives of your loved one. By having a surplus of both mental and physical benefits, owning an animal will give seniors a longer and happier life.
Works Cited Ballinger, Barbara. “The Healing Power of Pets for Seniors.” AgingCare.com, 21 May 2020, www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm. “The Complete Guide to Pet Ownership for Seniors.” A Place for Mom, www.aplaceformom.com/resources/pets-for-seniors. “Seniors and Pets: Updated for 2020.” AgingInPlace.org, 23 Jan. 2019, aginginplace.org/seniors-and-pets/. Team, Brain and Spine. “Why Having a Pet Can Boost Your Mood and Keep Your Brain Healthy.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 12 Oct. 2020, health.clevelandclinic.org/why-having-a-pet-of-any-kind-may-boost-your-mood-and-keep-your-brain-healthy/