Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors

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The saying “man’s best friend” dates back ages, describing the relationship between humans and our domestic canine companions.  This is a symbiotic relationship rooted in loyalty, love, affection, and friendship– one where they need us just as much as we need them!  Pets often provide us with a sense of joy and purpose, where such qualities may otherwise be lacking.  The bond formed with pets can provide numerous health benefits, both physical and mental.  In fact, the results can be so advantageous that pet therapy is often used as part of the healing and recovery process for humans. 

Suppose you’re considering welcoming a furry friend into your home. In that case, we invite you to explore some of the many health benefits associated with canine companionship, including stress relief and increased physical activity. 

The Social & Emotional Benefits of Having a Pet

As our age increases, we often see a decline in our health, mobility, and energy levels.  These changes can often lead to a lack of socialization, which can cause unintentional consequences of loneliness, depression, and even a decline in our physical health.  Creating an environment that mentally stimulates your loved ones and provides opportunities to flourish socially and emotionally is of the utmost importance.  Living by yourself can be lonely, especially for someone who has lost a lifetime companion.  

Having a furry friend by your side can provide a steady source of love, interaction, and activity.  They’re incredibly loyal companions and always readily available to please.  Just the mere sight of their human friend will have them wagging their tail, rolling over for a belly rub, or climbing into your lap to show their excitement and appreciation.  Their schedules are always open, and their affection is never-ending.  

Caring for a dog, and giving and receiving unconditional love, can boost the self-esteem of your loved one.  They provide a renewed sense of purpose and a reason to get up each morning.  Having a furry friend to tend to can make your loved one feel valued and important.  Furthermore, pets can even serve as a source of stress relief.  Scientific evidence shows that petting an animal can increase the release of serotonin, allowing you to relax and decompress.

Lastly, from a social standpoint, dogs create opportunities for you to interact with people you may not usually visit otherwise.  Taking your dog for a walk provides a reason to get out of the house and interact with neighbors.  It’s not unusual to strike up a conversation centered around your pet, providing you with a chance to socialize with others and even form new friendships along the way. Here is a great article on the best dog breeds for seniors

The Physical Benefits of Having a Pet   

In addition to the many social and emotional benefits of having a pet, there are also physical benefits that you may have never considered.  Owning a dog plays a significant role in promoting a healthy lifestyle.  Pet ownership creates many opportunities to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.  As previously mentioned, dogs love going on walks.  Not only will your four-legged friend benefit from the exercise, but you will too!  If you’re not out walking your dog around the neighborhood, perhaps you’re in your backyard, throwing the ball and playing a game of fetch.  You may even visit a dog park and go exploring with your furry friend.  

The added exercise and the benefits of stress relief have been credited for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels and even improving overall heart health.  The American Heart Association even released a scientific statement linking a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease with pet ownership, particularly for those with dogs. 

In general, it’s noted that pet owners tend to take better care of themselves.  Caring for your canine companion helps to establish daily routines and create healthy habits.  Such behaviors can help seniors with everyday responsibilities, from eating meals to completing household chores.  It creates a level of discipline and routine that is important for senior self-care.    

Before running out and getting a four-legged friend, make sure a pet is the right decision for you. Though pets may be a wonderful addition for some, they are not ideal for all.  As with anything, this is not a “one size fits all” approach.  Each situation should be carefully evaluated and in the best interest of your elderly loved one, as well as the potential pooch. Determine whether or not you are physically, mentally, and financially able to care for a pet.  If all signs point to yes, then we think it is a “paws-itively” wonderful idea!       

Article written by Nola Home Care – providing exceptional home care services in New Orleans, LA