Pets are an incredible source of joy. They bring a smile to our faces even when days are not so bright. They are excellent companions, and their presence eliminates the feeling of loneliness. These furry, four-legged creatures are bundles of immense positivity. Moreover, they always make us feel needed, give us a sense of purpose and keep us active. Therefore, it's no wonder that pets improve the physical health of the elderly.
There have been several studies that have shown that pets can have a positive effect on health. They can help lower blood pressure, improve mental health, and even reduce asthma attacks in children. Furthermore, children can learn a lot from having a pet to take care of. Teenagers and adults, too, can do with a bit of positive distraction from their busy days. Living with an animal can have numerous beneficial effects on our lives, and here is how it can impact the health of older adults.
Do Different Pets Have Different Effects?
Older people with a dog will be more active and have more opportunities to socialize and meet new people. Thus, there are physical advantages alongside numerous mental health benefits, including lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and reduced risk of stroke.
So, while a dog will encourage an older person to exercise more than a cat or another animal, it doesn't mean that other types of pets will not affect their health. People who spend some time looking at fish swimming in a fish tank will feel more relaxed, and their blood pressure will be lowered.
Pets Improve Physical Health
We have established that pets will significantly impact the quality of life of older adults due to physical and mental health benefits. Here is how that happens.
Having a routine introduces structure to daily life. Caring for a pet also creates a sense of purpose. There has been evidence that older people who have pets experience less deterioration when it comes to their capabilities to perform daily tasks. Pets require attention as their well-being depends on us being active.
We all know how vital exercising regularly is for all ages. But for the elderly, it crucial. Implementing regular physical activity in our daily routines can be challenging for everyone. However, having a pet will make you go for a walk every day, and it is not something you can skip so easily as jogging, aerobics class, or even a walk by yourself. Moreover, people who own a dog tend to participate more frequently in moderate or vigorous exercise.
As a result, fewer visits to the doctor have been reported. Also, dog owners usually have a lower body mass index. A study on dog walking and the bond a human and an animal share showed that people who formed a stronger bond with their pets tended to go for more prolonged walks than those who didn't share such a deep connection with their dog.
Pets Reduce Stress
Being out, socializing, meeting people, staying connected with the outside world is essential for the elderly. And having a pet can do that. If it's a dog, you will have to go for a walk every day at least once. You will have to visit a vet or a groomer from time to time. All of that will help you stay connected with other people.
Dogs can help the older people stay connected with other people and reduce depression. Moreover, the unconditional love pets give us boosts the mood considerably and instantly. They truly make life happier and give people the strength and will to go out, tend to their needs, play, and consequently, have a more positive outlook on life.
Furthermore, pets can help us through challenging times in life, such as moving to a new home. This time can be particularly difficult for the elderly as they say goodbye to their homes and numerous memories.
Having a pet can ease the transition by being emotional support, providing a structure, and continuing the established routines in a new home. So, it's only fair to return the favor and make the relocation easy for the furry friend by ensuring they travel safely and helping them get to know the new house and environment.
Lowered Risk of Heart Disease
A study that lasted for 12 years and included 3.4 million Swedish adults, aged 40 to 80, showed that people who owned dogs had lower chances of dying due to heart disease. This was particularly true for those who lived alone as they had an 11% lower risk of suffering from a heart attack.
As mentioned, having a dog will encourage the elderly to go out more, exercise, stay connected, which can altogether contribute to decreased stress, reduced feeling of loneliness, especially for empty-nesters and those who live alone, and ultimately, depression. All of these are beneficial to the health of the heart.
Dogs Provide Sense of Security
Having pets will provide the elderly with much-needed companionship. It will motivate them to go for long walks, spend more time outside, potentially discover new interests, and meet new people. However, having a dog will also give them a sense of security, especially if they live alone. Regardless of the size, a dog barking will make potential intruders think twice before entering a home. Moreover, the barking will also serve as a warning sign.
Investment in Life
If you have decided to get a pet, whichever pet, it means that you have made a decision and a promise to stay involved in another living being's life. That commitment is probably the best and the most positive decision you can make. And it's not only because pets improve the physical health of the elderly and add to longevity. They can do wonders for your mental health and general outlook on life. And remember, while a pet is only a part of your life, you are their entire life.
So, getting a pet is not a decision you should make lightly. But, if you conclude that you can care for another life, that experience will be enriching, and it will considerably improve our quality of life.
Match the Pet That Best Fits Your Loved One’s Needs
If your older parent or family member could use companionship and increase activity, a pet may be the answer. Discuss with your loved one and their doctor about the type of pet that might be the most beneficial.
You can also discuss the options with a local veterinarian who can suggest certain animals that fit the needs and personality of the older adult.
Finding the right pet that matches your loved one's health and physical ability will be essential for it working best for both your loved one and the pet. Every breed of animal will have different personalities and needs. Bigger dogs, for example, are stronger, harder to control, and may require more exercise than an older person may be able to handle.
Pets can be a big part of a caregiving team both mentally and physically if your loved one needs help and assistance.
About the Author
Jane Stinson is a relocation specialist who has worked with many seniors over the years. Having seen how hard some of them have taken it, she has decided to start blogging about helping seniors, and younger generations, move to their new homes. Jane aims to make the whole experience more comfortable. In her free time, she enjoys reading and gardening.
Contributor since March 26th, 2021
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