If your doctor told you she had a medication that would help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of depression, suppress stress hormone levels, boost serotonin, and help prevent heart disease, would you consider taking it? Believe it or not, these health benefits have been identified as some of the positive effects of pet ownership. In addition, studies show that senior pet owners who live alone are 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. It makes sense, then, that owning or being around a pet can be especially beneficial for our older loved ones.
Because of the care aspect involved, it’s important to consider the specific needs of a pet, in tandem with the physical and emotional capability of their potential senior owner, before moving ahead with adoption or purchase. Some questions to consider include:
- Has your loved one ever owned a pet before?
- What kind of pet does your loved one have experience taking care of?
- If they live alone, can they take care of the pet daily?
- Does your loved one have any limitations or disabilities to consider?
- Does your loved one need a support animal or just a companion?
- What age animal would best suit your loved one?
- Would your loved one do best with a low-maintenance pet, or can they handle a pet that requires more care?
Once you’ve thought through these questions and have decided that pet ownership is right for your loved one, you’ll have to work with them to choose the right type of pet. These are some of the best pets for seniors:
Fish are an excellent option for seniors who want a pet that requires minimal care and is inexpensive to own. They’re especially good for seniors with mobility issues. You can start simple with a single beta fish or fill up an entire aquarium. Be sure to get advice from your local pet shop owner before putting different types of fish in the same aquarium. Your loved one will enjoy watching them swim and may even be surprised by the personality of their new fish friend.
Birds require a bit more care, with some breeds needing more than others. Again, your local pet expert should be able to guide you in choosing a bird that is right for your loved one. They, too, are suitable for seniors with mobility issues as they don’t need to be walked and typically stay in their cages. Plus, they are beautiful to look at and to listen to.
Rabbits are fairly easy to take care of and typically enjoy being pet and paid attention to. If your loved one is up to the task, rabbits can be litterbox trained, allowing them to hop around the house freely. If not, rabbits are also content to spend time in their cage. The lifespan of a domesticated rabbit can range from five to twelve years, which is important to consider if choosing this type of pet.
While cats sometimes get a bad rap, they’re an excellent choice for those who want a furry friend who doesn’t require much attention. They don’t need to be walked, are generally low energy, and can be left at home for hours. Cats are incredibly self-sufficient and ideal for the active senior with a busy social calendar.
For many, dogs are the ultimate pet, especially those who have owned them in the past. While dogs require the highest level of care of any of these pets, they may also be able to provide the most significant benefits. Dogs are fiercely loyal and can be a fantastic choice for seniors who are recently widowed or feeling lonely. They also offer a good reason for seniors to get out for daily walks, providing opportunities for socialization and exercise.
Adopting or buying a new pet is a huge decision but may be just the thing that your loved one needs. Please do your research, chat with others about their experience, and enjoy your new companion!