Have you been considering getting a pet, but aren’t sure if it’s feasible? Having a pet has been shown to be very beneficial for our mental and physical health, especially among the aging population, but there are also potential cons that can come with pet ownership.
The Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors
Multiple studies have shown that having a pet can lead to not only improved mental health, but improved physical health.
Pet ownership has been linked to:
- Lower levels of stress
- Lower levels of loneliness
- Lower levels of depression
- Improved mood
- Improved overall mental and physical health
The Physical Health Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors
Pet ownership, specifically in the aging community, has been shown to be very beneficial. The physical benefits of owning a pet for seniors include:
- Staying Fit – Walking pets can help seniors get their daily exercise and to get out of the house. A study published by The Gerontological Society of America found that dog walking is associated with longer and more frequent exercise in seniors, as well as a lower body mass index, fewer visits to the doctor, and more opportunities for socialization.
- Less Risk of Heart Disease – Some studies have shown that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, leading to a reduced risk of heart disease. One study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes linked dog ownership with a 33 percent lower risk of death among heart attack survivors who live alone.
- The same study found that dog ownership was associated with a 24 percent reduced risk of death from any cause among the general public
- It’s not only dog owners who benefit from pet ownership. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), people without cats have a 40 percent higher relative risk of heart attack than non‑cat owners.
The Mental Health Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors
It’s not only your physical health that improves when you have an animal companion. Multiple studies have shown that owning a pet comes with emotional, social and mental benefits. A 2016 HABRI study found that some mental health benefits for seniors who have pets include:
- Pets can make seniors, especially seniors who live alone, feel needed.
- Pets can give seniors who’ve retired or are no longer caring for children or grandchildren a sense of purpose.
- Pet ownership is linked to lower levels of depression and stress and overall improved mood.
- Pets can give seniors a routine to follow.
- Pets can give seniors the opportunity to make new friends – through pet events or through walking their pet outside.
- Pets can offer seniors living alone a sense of protection and security.
- Pets were found to contribute to a stronger sense of identity in pet owners who had mental health conditions.
- Pet ownership can provide a distraction from distressing symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.
- Pets can provide social and emotional support and companionship.
- A study by the University of Michigan found a link between pet ownership and improved memory, suggesting that owning a pet could help to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet
When you look at the numerous benefits to pet ownership, a pet seems like an investment that’s well worth it, especially for seniors who want to maintain or improve their physical or mental health, but there are several things to consider before you commit to a pet:
Are You Able to Care For a Pet?
Are you mobile enough to be able to walk a dog? If you decide to get a younger dog, do you feel that you’d be able to give it the attention it will need – younger dogs often have high levels of energy and will want to play a lot. If you decide on a cat, are you able to clean the litter box and perform other care tasks?
Will You Be Able to Keep Your House Clean With a Pet?
One drawback to having a pet that mostly stays indoors is that it makes it more difficult to keep your house clean. Do you have the ability to move around easily and independently? Are you able and willing to dust, vacuum up pet hair, and clean up any other messes, or can you afford to hire a professional housekeeping service?
Can You Afford to Care For a Pet?
Many people underestimate the cost of having a pet. The monthly costs of pet food and other necessities can add up, and vet bills can be expensive, as well. It’s very important to keep up your pet’s health, so they live a healthy and happy life by your side, but making sure they get their required checkups, shots, and medications can cost more money than you might think.
Can I Bring a Pet With Me to a Senior Living Community?
The good news is that if you are planning on moving into a senior living community, many of the barriers to pet ownership can be alleviated. If you live in a community that offers housekeeping services, you don’t have to worry as much about cleaning up after your pet. If you decide to sell your home to move into a community, you’ll be potentially saving money on home maintenance, utilities, housekeeping services, and more – and you can dedicate that money to caring for your animal companion. However, not all senior living communities accept pets, so you’ll need to make sure that the community you’re considering allows pets before you decide whether or not to move in.
At Eagle Flats Village, we’re well aware of the many benefits to pet ownership. That’s why we happily accept pets, with a pet deposit and interview to ensure that the pet is appropriate for community living. If you’ve been considering making the move to a senior living community, and want to potentially bring an animal companion with you, schedule a tour today on our website or by calling 940-552-8181.