Studies have long shown the benefits that a furry friend can have on an individual, but new reports are showing that seniors can benefit from pets in advanced age as well.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging surveyed 2,051 adults aged 50 to 80 and found that more than half reported owning a pet. Of that amount, over 88% said that their pets helped them enjoy life, and 86% said their pets made them feel more loved. Another poll sponsored by AARP found that roughly 80% of senior pet owners reported their furry friends helped to reduce stress.
Since over 40% of seniors report experiences of loneliness on a regular basis, it’s important to encourage seniors to adopt pets, get access to therapy animals, and spend time caring for a beloved pet. Since loneliness and aging are associated with inflammation, stress, and poor sleep, pets can help relieve some of those issues. According to the National Poll on Aging, 72% of seniors with pets report that their pets help them cope with emotional and physical symptoms.
Here are some stats on the ways that pets can create health benefits:
- Two in five seniors who live alone (43%) and 46% of those in fair or poor physical health reported that their pets help take their mind off pain.
- One 2012 study in Pain Magazine found that therapy dogs provided “significant reduction in pain and emotional distress for chronic pain patients.”
- More than half (62%) of the surveyed seniors said that caring for their critters helped them keep a routine, and 73% said their pets provided a sense of purpose.
- 65% of the aging pet owners in the new survey claimed that their animals connected them with other people.Isolation raises the risk of heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32%. An analysis of 70 studies featuring 3.4 million people found that people suffering social isolation had a 30% greater risk of dying in the next seven years.
- 64% of overall pet owners, and 78% among dog owners in particular, said their pet helped them to be more physically active.
According to research out of Market Watch, giving structure to your days becomes even more important after you retire. This is because the risk of depression grows when someone feels they do not have a sense of purpose. Having something to stay on top of such as feeding, walking, grooming and playing with a pet can help fill the empty hours of old age and keep the mind sharp.
Pets are also great for aging adults to stay active. Seniors aged 65 and older are recommended to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week, or about 30 minutes per day. This is supported by evidence from 2017 that found dog walking in older adults was associated with more frequent aerobic exercise, lower BMI, and less visits to the doctor.
Pet Factors That Might Make You Paws
Not every senior should adopt a pet, especially an animal that may need lots of attention and love. Every senior should consider the factors that might affect their finances and lifestyle. Here are some factors to consider:
- Some pets are physically demanding
- Pets can get expensive
- Pets can spread disease
- Pets can make a mess
- Owners may outlive their pets
- Pets need love and attention
One study published in JAMA reported that bone fractures in seniors related to dog walking was double the rate of seniors without pets. 6% of seniors also report that their pets have caused them to fall or injure themselves. Seniors that have limited mobility may need to consider adopting a more low-maintenance, smaller pet, such as a cat, bird, or fish, though having all three may be inviting trouble.
According to reports from Rover.com, canines on average cost their owners $153/month. That’s no small scratch. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals puts the average cost at about $875 for a large dog, $670 for cats, $200 for birds, and $35 for a fish annually. For any seniors on a fixed income, The Humane Society has listed state and national resources for pet owners who have trouble affording their pets.
Another possibility to worry about is outliving your pet. Oftentimes, seniors may have to go through the saddening experience of witnessing a pet pass away. If your senior winds up having to move into an assisted living facility or going to the hospital, there will need to be a plan in place to take care of the animal. You may also want to possibly set up a pet trust to cover the animal’s care.
Picking Your Pet
Before adopting a pet, you need to be sure that you are going to be able to provide the animal with a proper lifestyle and home. A few questions you can ask yourself include:
- How long will this animal live?
- How much exercise does this pet need?
- How big will the animal become?
- How much will it cost for veterinary care?
- What type of habitat does this pet need to be healthy?
Finding where to get a pet will depend on if you need a service animal or just a general pet to keep company. If you are in need of a service dog, be sure to get in contact with one of the many organizations that provide them like Service Dogs for America or Freedom Service Dogs on how to proceed. Generally you will have to submit an application and be approved before you are able to pick out your service animal. There is normally a fee that comes with the dog that pays for the training the animal receives.
However, if you’re looking for a normal pet, there are a number of options. While you can always visit a breeder, adopting from an animal shelter would be less expensive and would provide a home to unwanted animal. Some shelters ever give reduced fees to individuals age 55 and older.
Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird, or something else, having a pet around can be a comforting and beneficial thing for everyone, including seniors who can benefit from pets.
If you’re looking for more senior living blogs and resources, make sure to read our informative blogs every week. They will provide valuable information and can educate you on topics related to senior living. If your thinking it may be time for your loved one to move into one of the best active retirement communities, give Landmark Senior Living a look.