The many changes that can go along with living in the golden years often result in a sense of isolation. Our residents at find many opportunities to combat loneliness, but one of the favorites is the option of owning a pet. Of course, owning a pet involves responsibility; but many people find that life is more meaningful when another creature depends upon them for daily needs. There are many proven benefits for elderly people who own dogs, and they are best enjoyed when you adopt the particular breed of dog that suits you and the environment you live in. If you are a cat person, breed is only important as a matter of a pet owner’s personal preferences.
Benefits of Pets for Seniors
Research provides convincing proof that owning a pet improves a senior’s quality of life. Owning a dog or cat is packed with significant benefits and should perhaps be something everyone in their retirement years at least considers. Among the proven benefits of pets for seniors are the following:
Mood Lifter. When a senior citizen pets a dog or cat, feelings of being depressed, anxious, or stressed immediately begin to be reduced. Pets have the special quality of being inherently playful at all ages. Dogs and cats are both endless sources of entertainment. Any dog lover knows how special it is to be the focus of their pet’s undying affection. When you return from being away from your dog, whether you’ve been gone for ten minutes or two hours, you will usually be greeted with enthusiastic wags and pure doggy love.
Sense of Purpose. One of the challenges of retirement years is the adjustment to a simpler life with fewer responsibilities and a non-hectic schedule. Because there is a lot involved with the proper care of a pet, a dog or cat can give you a renewed sense of purpose. Taking responsibility for the well-being of a pet promotes joy, optimism, and happiness.
Promotes Better Health. If you adopt a dog, one of the responsibilities is to take your dog on regular walks. Daily walks are as good for you as they are for your pet. Walking is one of the best exercises for your overall health, particularly if you make it a practice to walk on unpaved trails frequently. In addition to improving heart health and physical strength, you will promote balance and coordination, to help avoid falls, all of which are important for seniors. According to research, seniors with pets have fewer visits to the doctor and lower health care costs.
Brain Health. Among the most common maladies among senior citizens in the U.S. are various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Research proves that the effects of dementia can be prevented or slowed by engaging in activities that stimulate the brain. Training a pet and establishing a routine for exercise, feeding, and other aspects of care helps to improve the memory function and encourages a healthier brain.
Reduces Feelings of Isolation. Singles, widows, and widowers make up a large percentage of the senior population, and it is not uncommon for the elderly to feel isolated and alone. Pets provide genuine companionship. In fact, dogs and cats are typically considered members of the family, which they are. When you have a pet at home that loves you, there are fewer feelings of loneliness.
Reasons to Adopt a Cat
Dogs and cats are both great companions that provide above-mentioned benefits, but they are very different creatures that require different levels of care. For many seniors, cats are the better choice because they need less training and exercise than dogs. The following are a few attributes unique to cats:
- Cats are usually content to stay indoors all of the time, and there is no harm done if they stay indoors.
- A typical adult cat needs only about 25 minutes of playtime daily, and the owner doesn’t need to be mobile to interact with a cat. You can sit up in bed or in your most comfortable chair and engage the cat in play with a laser toy or a kitty fishing pole.
- Cats tend to enjoy spending much of their day sleeping and purring in their owner’s lap.
Longevity is one thing to consider when adopting a pet. Cats can live up to 15 or 20 years, same as dogs. A family member or friend should be available to take responsibility for your furry friend if he outlives you.
Cats have different temperaments. If you adopt a cat from a shelter, ask the staff to recommend cats to choose from that are easygoing, calm, and have minimal medical needs. Some cats are anti-social, and they don’t tend to provide the same benefits as cats that bond with their owners.
It is usually best for seniors to adopt adult cats. Kittens are adorable and playful, but they can also be a source of a lot of stress. Adult cats have fewer demands for training or exercise, and there is also less of a chance they will outlive their owners.
In this continuing series, learn what makes a dog the right choice as a pet as well as the best breeds recommended for seniors. Many of our residents have already figured out the dog that’s just right for them. Perhaps your favorite type of dog is one most recommended for seniors.
Discovery Village at Sarasota Bay offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 941.209.3466.