Benefits of Having a Pet for Seniors

Benefits of Having a Pet for Seniors

If you have a pet as a family member, chances are you can already articulate the benefits that a pet has brought to your life. But did you know that pets can be particularly helpful to us as we age?

If you have a pet as a family member, you already know the benefits of having it in your life. But did you know that pets can be particularly helpful to us as we age?

For seniors, in particular, having a pet can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Stimulate mental engagement
  • Increase social interaction
  • Lessen loneliness and depression

A pet can offer much needed companionship for a senior while adding structure and routine to their daily life not to mention the exercise and physical activity it will provide!

If you’re thinking about getting a pet for an elderly family member of friend, be mindful that owning a pet is not the best path for everyone.

Consider the following:

  • Is the individual set in his/her ways?
  • Has the individual had a pet before?
  • Does the person have any health concerns that would complicate taking care of the pet?
  • Do the personalities and temperaments of the pet and individual align?
  • Are there financial constraints that could complicate caring for the pet?
  • Can plans be put in place to care for the pet if the senior is no longer able to care for the pet? This last point is of particular concern to many elderly people who desire a pet in their lives.

Our cat Abercrombie gave my father back his quality-of-life. When my mother died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, my dad no longer knew what to do with himself. He began sitting in the house all day with the curtains drawn, watching TV. Then we asked him if he would be willing to take care of Abercrombie for a while.  It took a few adjustments. Dad had a bad back so we had to figure out how to put a small chair next to the litter box so that he could get down to the level to scoop it. Also, he was on Plavix so he bled easily. He fashioned protection for his lap so she could still sit on it and kneed on his belly without causing him to bleed.

Once she moved in the transformation was incredible! This man who had been sitting doing nothing and had little to talk to me about on our phone call each night, all of a sudden was full of stories of what the cat had done that day. And of what they had done together. The next time I went up to visit, the curtains were open so Abercrombie could see out the windows. He proudly showed me some steps he built so she could get up on the counter to have the food snacks he liked to put out for her. Each night we happily shared his stories of Abercrombie’s daily antics. I am so thankful for their relationship. I feel like that relationship gave me my father back!

Has a pet been important to a senior you know?

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The Healing Power of Pets by Marty Becker, DVM