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Health Benefits Seniors Get from Having Pets

pet therapy for seniors; live your retirement

For elderly individuals, having a pet can provide them with such a positive experience. Pets help make seniors feel that they are needed, giving them a renewed sense of purpose and self-worth. And while in the past, moving to a senior retirement home meant having to leave their pets behind, more and more retirement communities are now integrating pet therapy into their program as they recognize the significant benefits pets offer to their residents.

Pets Motivate Seniors to Stay Active

The usual care required in keeping a pet is helpful in encouraging the elderly live a more active lifestyle. Being pet owners, they will have to provide their animals the attention and care they need, and this keeps them active on a daily basis. By having pets around, seniors are drawn to establish particular routines and perform certain tasks which they would normally not do, such as feeding their pet, grooming, going out to walk their dog, changing their cat’s litter box, or playing with them.

Pets are Great Companions

Pets are a great source of unconditional love and affection, always keeping their humans company and reciprocating the attention that they get from us. Being with their pets, seniors are able to feel loved and needed, which helps raise their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Pets also help make seniors feel safe and secure, especially for those who have protective dogs. Overall, it is a good thing for seniors to know that they have someone beside them at all times.

Pets Keep the Brain Active

For pet owners who have just recently acquire their pets, this can lead them to learn more about the animal they will be caring for, which is a good way to keep the brain active and learning. Seniors with new pets may want to read articles about the breed of their animal and ways to keep them healthy and happy, or they may be asking their peers for tips. Either way, this is a chance for them to learn something new, which engages their mental abilities.

Pets Help Maintain a Healthy Heart and Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels

Based on a three-year study involving 5,741 people at the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, it was observed that 784 participants who owned one or more pets had significantly lower blood pressure, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels compared to people who did not have pets. The key factor which seems to have brought about these results was the active lifestyle that the pet owners have because of the activities they perform regularly with their pets. The same research supports previous studies which link pet ownership with reduced risk of developing heart disease.

Pets Help Fight Depression and Loneliness

The founders of Angel Animals Network, Allen and Linda Anderson share how pet ownership has given so much joy to seniors, “Older pet owners have often told us how incredibly barren and lonely their lives were without their pet’s companionship, even when there were some downsides to owning an active pet.” In their book, Angel Dogs: Divine Messengers of Love, the couple narrate about Bonnie, a golden retriever that was adopted by Marjorie and Richard Douse, which became a loved and valued family member to them. In this book, the couple shares, “We never felt alone when Bonnie was in the house. As we aged and tended to go out less, she provided us with loving companionship.”

Pets Help Improve One’s Memory

Psychologist Penny B. Donnenfeld brings Sandee, her golden retriever mix, to her New York City office, where she personally witnesses how her dog is able to help boost seniors’ memories. “I’ve seen those with memory loss interact and access memories from long ago,” Penny says. “Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”

Having pets offers so many physical, mental, and emotional benefits to seniors, aside from the happiness and love they give unconditionally, each and every day.

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