Our pets have long been known to complete any family of which they become a member. But recent research has shown that for seniors, owning a pet may be a game changer! Life can become lonely for seniors and the comfort and companionship of owning a pet can’t be overstated.
At LCB Senior Living, we understand the value of pets and welcome them into our communities with open arms. Here are some of the reasons why, and thoughts to consider before adopting a pet.
Physical and Emotional Benefits
Animals can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and increase social and physical activity, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Walking, grooming, and playing with a pet all increase activity and exercise, which has countless health benefits.
Owning a pet, especially a cat or a dog, provides many social and emotional benefits, as well. Walking a dog, for example, encourages seniors to get outside and chat with neighbors and other dog walkers. Our pets can also be a great cure for loneliness—isolated seniors discover a great source of affection, conversation, and activity. Studies have shown that being with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress.
Caring for a pet also helps provide seniors with a much-needed routine and a reminder that they are loved and needed! No matter how you may be feeling, mentally or physically, the dog needs to go out and the cat wants its nip.
Questions to Consider Before Getting a Pet
What is the best choice for a pet? If the senior in your life has trouble walking or other mobility issues that would prevent them from providing constant attention to a pet, a cat might be the better choice over a dog.
Is the senior an experienced pet owner? Taking on the responsibilities of owning a pet could be overwhelming for a senior who has never had a pet before. The goal is to reduce stress and anxiety, not create it!
Are finances an issue? Consider your loved one’s financial circumstances. Animal care can be very expensive and if your senior is on a fixed income, owning a pet could be a financial burden. Assess costs before you commit.
Choose the right pet. Do your research to find a pet whose age, size, personality, and energy level fit well with your senior loved one’s. Certain breeds of dogs, for example, are more temperamental and may be difficult for a senior to care for. Also, an overly large dog may be dangerous for a senior if it were to get excited or playful.
Where to Find a Pet for a Senior
While a breeder may seem like a good place to start, adopting from shelters is much less expensive and comes with the added benefit of giving an unwanted animal a home. Some shelters even offer reduced adoption fees for older pets and adopters.
Shelter employees often know each animal’s personality and can assist in making a good match. Online pet shopping is also possible, including at sites like petfinder.com, which allows potential owners to search a massive database of adoptable animals. But regardless of how you find your new pet, it’s always best to meet in person to see if the animal clicks with your senior.
On the other hand, for seniors that love pets but don’t want the responsibility of caring for one, programs with therapy pets can be a great way to have the best of both worlds. With this kind of programming, residents can spend time with friendly, docile animals but don’t have to worry about feeding them, picking up after them, etc.
Caring for a pet can be a wonderful way for our seniors to stay healthy and connected with the outside world. If you’re thinking of gifting your senior with a dog or a cat, a little research can go a long way to making it work for everyone.