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Benefits of Owning a Dog or Cat For Seniors

Rewards & Health Benefits of Owning a Dog or Cat

Owning a pet is a rewarding experience. But, as we get older, we tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to having a pet in the home. The responsibility it involves becomes daunting to seniors whose physical ability and income aren’t what they used to be. Despite this, research has found that there are significant benefits of owning a dog or cat.

According to a review on many years worth of research that’s looked at the benefits of pets to older individuals, “Epidemiologic studies suggest pet owners may acquire physical benefits, such as improved blood pressure and greater physical activity”, while “Animals might provide other benefits to demented individuals, such as improving their ability to socialize”. So with these proven benefits in mind, what are the some of the everyday positives of having a furry friend in your life?

Improve Sense of Purpose

Purpose is often something that seniors struggle with as work and social commitments decrease. Owning a pet, whether a dog, cat, rabbit or bird, requires a certain amount of attention and responsibility. Having something in your care can make you feel needed. Having a pet in your care provides a renewed sense of purpose to those feeling they’ve lost it a bit.

Increase Social Interaction

Dogs need a fair amount of exercise, even if it’s a relaxed stroll around the neighbourhood once a day. Having a canine friend means getting out and about to give them some time to sniff around and stretch their legs and in turn increases your chances of meeting up with other dog walkers or friends. If your social commitments are looking a little thin, having a dog might just be the push you need to get you out more often.

Help you Stay Active

Taking your dog for a daily stroll not only helps them get some much needed outdoor time. It also helps you increase your physical activity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that seniors aged 65 years and older should do at least 150 hours of moderate exercise — walking, swimming, dancing or gardening — per week, and owning a dog can help you achieve just that.

Improve Your Sense of Security

While an animal’s purpose is not to prevent you from being burgled, they can certainly act as a deterrent and make you feel more secure. Both cats and dogs can relieve feelings of loneliness and alert their owners to potential introducers or unusual noises. They aren’t guaranteed to fight off a burglar. But, there’s no doubt their furry comfort can make one feel less vulnerable.

elderly person holding a pug dog

Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

As mentioned, pet owners can experience an improvement in heart health. And, seniors are more at risk of heart disease the older they get. So owning a pet is one way to look after this precious organ. Studies have reported that in comparison with those who don’t own pets, those who do have both lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Whether due to increased daily exercise, an improved sense of purpose and security, or both, having a pet helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

Offer Companionship

Last, but by no means least, pets offer companionship. Their warm, loving and general happy sentiments that they bring to a home offers something we can’t provide ourselves. Whether you’re talking to them, stroking them, taking them for a stroll or just sitting side-by-side with them, an extra body in the room that loves you unconditionally is a priceless feeling.

This being said, not everyone is able to take of and care for a pet in the home. If you are physically, mentally or financially unable to do so, taking on a pet is not a sensible option. But don’t despair. Local animal shelters are always looking for volunteers. They want people who are able to spend some time with the animals in their care. A mere 30 minutes of animal interaction can be enough to lift one’s spirits. If you’re able to take on a pet, whether making use of some form of aged care support services or not, the positives to come from sharing your life with a furry friend cannot be overstated.

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