The Benefits of Having a Pet
For many years studies have documented how beneficial and rewarding pet ownership can be. Today, it has become more and more apparent just how important this is, specifically for older adults. There are many well documented health benefits of owning a pet. It has been proven petting a dog or cat will actually lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Being around a pet can increase your levels of serotonin, which affects many of our functions from sleep to the amount of energy we feel, and can increase overall alertness. Pet owners tend to be more active and exercise more regularly. Studies in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease show that having a pet in the home can reduce also agitation and anxiety as well as the pattern of social withdrawal that often accompanies the disease.
The benefits go well beyond the physical. In looking at the psychological aspects of pet ownership it becomes very obvious why pets are such a blessing to our older loved ones. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation are all major issues affecting older adults. Owning a pet can help alleviate all of these difficulties. Studies also show that owning a pet can be beneficial to people who are experiencing major life changes such as a move, loss of a loved one, or a health issue. As we age we tend to face a higher instance of major life changes, so this is yet another way a pet can be a great comfort to an older adult. Not only do pets provide much needed companionship, but they also give their owners a sense of purpose and help them remain more connected to their community and their surroundings. Studies show that older adults who own pets tend to dwell less on events of the past and focus more on their present and therefore have more opportunities to engage in new activities and make new social connections.
Bringing a pet into the home is an important decision and should be carefully planned. Programs such as Purina Pets For Seniors can help link up seniors with a homeless mature pet and will also help cover the cost of their adoption fees. Contact your Eldercare Specialist for more information.
At St. Andrew’s Senior Solutions our work with older adults and family caregivers has shown us how valuable pets are to our clients. As a result, we created a pet care program, recognizing pets are an important member of the family and their well being is often a concern. We provide a wide range of pet care services. For additional information about this article please contact your Caring Workplace Eldercare Specialist, Heather O’Brien, at 314-802-5106 toll free at 1-888-388-1930 or [email protected]. Information obtained from www.webmd.com, www.petsfurpeople.org and www.elderoptionsoftexas.com.