Most seniors tend to feel isolated and lonely- feelings that are known to be leading causes of depression! Staying alone can also give rise to feelings of despair and worthlessness. On the other hand, adopting a pet means having a constant companion by the side, with animals like dogs, cats, and rabbits acting as instant mood uplifters!
2. Frequent Interaction
Pets like dogs and cats give seniors the opportunity of increased and frequent interaction, thus keeping their minds occupied. Taking these pets out on walks and giving them mild exercise also creates opportunities for social interaction with other people. Seniors can meet new people at the park, at the vet, or at the grooming salon, and also partake in shared activities with other pet owners.
3. Sense of Purpose
Having a pet is a huge responsibility, but this doesn’t mean that it has to be stressful for seniors. Seniors understand that their pet depends on them for water, food, exercise, and hugs! This is enough reason for them to be excited to start their day, as opposed to feeling dull and not bothering to even brush their hair when they are lonely and depressed.
While seniors themselves should maintain routine when it comes to having food and taking rest, they might not be able to do so if they live alone or feel lonely. With a pet, they have to plan their day and stick to feeding and exercise times. Pets also require regular grooming, all of which can help add structure to the lives of pet parents!
5. Regular Exercise
For seniors who don’t find the will to exercise, adopting a pet like a dog or a cat can cause them to willingly engage in playtime. Taking such pets out on walks, bathing and grooming them, feeding them, cleaning up after them, etc. all require mild exercise on the part of the pet parent. This keeps seniors active and also encourages them to move about more.
6. Lower Stress Levels
Cuddling with pets like dogs and cats can release the ‘cuddle chemical’ oxytocin in the body. This reduces stress and brings on a calming effect. Engaging with animals also gives the mind something else to concentrate on instead of staying focused on worries and troubles. Gazing at fish swimming around in a pond or tank also helps calm the nerves!
7. Physical Health
As mentioned, adopting a dog or a cat can keep seniors active. And even a little bit of exercise can do wonders for the body and increase lifespan by 3-5 years! Gentle exercises like walking can improve muscle strength and bone density, thus improving balance and reducing the risk of falls. What’s more, light housework coupled with low stress levels can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and improve immunity! Exercising also increases blood flow, reduces risk of fractures, osteoporosis, and dementia, and boosts overall health.
8. Mental Health
Studies link cognitive impairment to loneliness, making it all the more important for seniors to lead a social life. Adopting a pet like a dog or a cat can keep seniors engaged in new activities, encourage them to go out and meet new people, and establish new relationships with other people. All of these keep the brain stimulated, boost memory, and reduce the risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s.
9. Improved Sleep Patterns
Research shows that socially isolated people are bound to experience more restlessness and disruptions in their sleep. With a pet in the house, seniors are sure to get ample exercise through the day, which can help stabilize their sleep patterns. Having fulfilling relationships and connections with other people has also been linked to better sleep!
10. Dignity and Independence
Due to declining health, many seniors aren’t able to control all aspects of their daily life. Depending on their health condition, adopting a pet like a trained service dog can make it easier for seniors to do a variety of tasks around the house, head out for walks or shopping trips, and more! With a pet, seniors also get an increased sense of responsibility and feel motivated to achieve more.
On a Side-Note…
If you’re planning to get a pet for a senior member of your family, always consider the individual’s age, health, activity level, experience with pets, temperament, financial situation, and type of residence before adopting a pet! Make sure that both the pet you’re considering and your senior family member are happy together!