The Benefits Of Owning A Pet
Pets bring love, affection and companionship to people of all ages. In many households, they’re truly part of the family.
For seniors, pets can provide a number of additional benefits. Here are a few ways that pets enhance joy and health for older adults.
Few motivations can get you up from the couch and out for a walk faster than a dog. Like many people, dogs are creatures of habit, and most will readily demand their daily exercise, rain or shine. For less-active people, dogs provide constant encouragement to spend some time outdoors; research has found that dog owners walk for about an hour more each day compared to their peers who don’t own pets.
Even when you’re inside, you’ll move around more with a dog or cat in the house. Whether you’re tossing a ball, playing with a cat toy, or lifting bags of dog food, you’ll find yourself becoming more physically active thanks to your pet.
Companionship, Affection and Security
Dogs and humans have a long history together, and it shows. As the only animals besides humans known to interpret emotions — by scanning the left side of the face, as humans do — dogs form close bonds with their two-legged companions.
Spending time with a doting pet unleashes a chemical reaction in the brain that can increase serotonin — which promotes good feelings — and reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone that causes stress. Research has found that being with a pet can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and stress as well as battling depression.
Dogs and cats also can serve as effective sentries, warning you when they detect a car pulling in your driveway or someone approaching your front door. In addition, they help many older adults remain independent and safe in their homes by alerting vision- or hearing-impaired owners to dangers.
Increased Social Interaction
Many pets have never met a stranger, and they serve as great icebreakers. In addition to making fantastic companions themselves, pets — especially dogs — encourage their owners to get out of their own residences and see the world.
Once you’re out with your pet, you’re likely to make new friends as people approach you to pet your dog or to ask questions. By learning more about your breed of dog, you can stimulate your brain and have conversation-starting material ready should an opportunity to chat arise.
If you decide to bring a pet into your heart and home, do some research to ensure that you and your new friend will be a good match. Consider whether the dog’s size and exercise needs are appropriate for your home size and lifestyle, and make sure to understand any breed restrictions in your community. When you’re ready to adopt, the Humane Society can point you to resources for finding your new best friend.