Six Benefits to Pet Ownership for Seniors
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are very common among seniors. Spending more time at home, and sometimes the lack of mobility, can keep you from doing activities that you used to do. Pets keep seniors active and some need daily walks that will get us up and out the door every day.
Owning a pet has many obvious benefits – including unconditional love and affection. But there are additional advantages to pet ownership that you may not consider immediately. Here are six more reasons to own a pet:
Pets Make Their Owners Feel Needed
Caring for a pet cab give your life added purpose and help establish a routine that adds structure to your days. The mutual bond can help improve physical and mental health for humans and pets alike. Research shows that more than three-quarters of pet owners say their animals reduce their stress, and nearly as many say pets give them a sense of purpose.
Pets Help Their Owners Form Connections with other People
Pets are undoubtedly great companions, but they also help their humans make connections with other people and build a social support network, which has health benefits as well. Studies have found being a pet owner was the third most common way that people meet other people in their neighborhoods. And, pet owners were 60% more likely than non–pet owners to get to know people in their neighborhoods. Taking your dog on a stroll through the park can be a great conversation starter.
Pets Help Relieve Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation
It’s no surprise that loneliness in the United States has increased severely since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The company of a pet can help people feel less lonely. Not only can pets provide reassuring nuzzles and emotional support, they are the perfect companions for older adults who live alone.
Pets Help People be Mindful
Pets live in the here and now, without worry about the future or thoughts about the past. Playing or cuddling with your dog or cat can help you do the same. One recent study showed that 87% of people feel more relaxed after spending time with a pet. For people who tend to spiral into worry, the same study found that pets help them live in the moment, and stay mindful.
Pets can Speed up Recovery
Many believe that a positive outlook can speed recovery after an illness or injury. Pets are so good at helping us see the bright side that many hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care centers have established pet visitation programs for patients. Dogs are especially effective at helping older patients who have physical disabilities. Another study sponsored by AARP found that 70% of older adults said their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms, and 46% said their pets help take their mind off of pain.
Pets Help Improve Fitness
Pets give you a clear reason to walk every day, and that rain-or-shine accountability can help you form a lasting exercise habit. Research has found that people who own a dog walk 22 minutes longer on average than those who do not have a dog. Even a low-intensity daily 20-minute walk can improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress.
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