When it comes to caring for a pet who’s been through a lot, all that’s needed is some spare time and lots of patience and love. And with US News reporting that American seniors aged 75 and older spend four hours or more a day watching TV, older people certainly have enough time on their hands to take in a pet to look after either as a foster owner or on a more permanent basis. Not only can they give an animal a much-needed home, they can also use their new pet to alleviate all kinds of problems. Whether it’s issues like loneliness and isolation they’re experiencing or simply higher levels of inactivity, many seniors find dog ownership to be a godsend. Here are some of the main ways in which getting a dog is a great way to stay healthy, positive and alert during old age.
Cut down on loneliness
As Psych Central reports, TV programs which show older people having a great time with big groups of friends don’t always reflect the reality of the situation. But with a pet who has needs like walking and feeding living in a senior’s home, the older person will never be short of a friend. What’s more, getting out and about with the pet – either for a walk or even just a trip to the vet – means that the senior will be able to combat isolation a little more easily.
It’s not just the senior who benefits from this arrangement, either. It’s been found that dogs who have experienced abandonment often have behavioral issues such as excessive barking or cognitive problems – and given what they’ve been through, it’s no surprise. Once they have a senior to look after them, though, they can go back to living happy and healthy lives.
Improve physical health
The physical health benefits of pet ownership is one of the major reasons for older people to get dogs. As result of the increased physical activity needed, owning a pet can cut down on the risk of problems like heart disease. And with two-thirds of deaths from cardiovascular disease in America happening to those aged 75 or older, it may well be that pets are the best medicine.
Mental health problems don’t discriminate on the basis of age, and anyone can experience them. Older people are no exception, and it’s believed that over two million Americans aged 65 or older will experience depression in one way or another. Dog ownership, though, is known to encourage the production of the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with increased happiness. And with many pets also appearing happier once they’re out of the pound and in a home, it’s a win-win situation. So if you or a senior you know has depression or low mood, owning a pet can be a great way to combat the problem – both for the owner and the dog.
It’s clear from looking at the research that owning a pet is ideal for helping seniors achieve better health outcomes. Not only can pet ownership help with making sure that a senior’s physical health is better, it’s also vital for improving their mental outlook too. If you’re a senior or you’ve got a loved one who is older, it’s time to look seriously into starting the pet fostering or adoption process.
Article by: Jane Anderson, a freelance writer, editor and dog owner.