We love our pets, be they dogs, cats, birds, tropical fish, or other creatures. It’s been said that “a true friend leaves pawprints on your heart.” Pets not only enrich our lives, but as we grow older, they actually offer important health benefits, such as improving human cardiovascular health, reducing our stress, decreasing loneliness and depression, and facilitating social interaction.
The benefits of pets for seniors are numerous. A 2018 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a national sample of adults age 50–80 about their pets.
- 88% said their pets help them enjoy life
- 86% said their pets make them feel loved
- 79% said their pets help reduce stress
- 73% said their pets provide a sense of purpose
Most of today’s assisted living settings understand the unbreakable bond between an older adult and their pets and offer a pet-friendly environment, which is good news if you’ve been wondering whether your long-time companion will be able to make the move with you.
Other health benefits of pets for seniors:
- A Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study found that dog owners visit the doctor less frequently than seniors who do not have a dog.
- Watching aquarium fish can decrease a person’s heart rate, increase skin temperature, and decrease muscle tension.
- NBC News reports that owning a dog has been shown to increase survival time following a heart attack.
- Dog owners tend to recover faster from surgery and illness and deal with stressful situations better.
- 30 minutes with a pet can enhance a person’s levels of the endorphins associated with happiness and wellbeing.
- Pets can ease the loss of a loved one and help fight off loneliness.
- In general, people who own a pet tend to take better care of themselves, following a routine, staying active, and eating regularly.
And it’s not just our health that can profit from our furry and feathered friends. Benefits of pets for seniors include enhanced emotional and mental well-being:
Pets give older adults something positive to focus on, like affection and activity, rather than physical problems.
Pets help you make friends. Whether you’re walking a dog, or comparing notes with a fellow cat-owner or exotic fish aficionado, you’ve found common ground you can build on.
Pets help keep you active, whether it’s going for a walk, playing indoors or simply interacting with your best friend. They give you a reason to get up every morning and greet the day.
Pets can build a senior’s self-esteem, just at a time in life when they might be feeling like they are being lost in the shuffle. Just knowing your pet needs you can enhance your state of mental health.
Pets can take us quickly from emotionless to joyful. Just 15 minutes with an animal releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel better.
Knowing the many important physiological and psychological benefits of pets for seniors is very helpful. But older adults need to consider all the factors before deciding if getting a pet is right for them, or whether to pursue other options for enjoying the company of animals. If you do know the joys of pet ownership, you can take heart that you can continue to enjoy that happy relationship in assisted living.
Pets are welcome at Clearwater assisted living. And so are your passions!
Residents are encouraged to pursue their passions and a lifestyle of wellness through our Six Dimensions of Living Well. We’d love to tell you more!