As people age, their world can become smaller and often more lonely. Loved ones may have moved away or even passed away. As people age and go out less often, pets become part of the family and provide much-needed loving companionship. They can bring joy to your everyday life, no matter your age. Here we will look at the benefits of pets for the elderly and which pets are best for older adults.
What are the benefits of keeping pets for the elderly
The Pets For The Elderly Foundation is a charity connecting therapy animals with older adults. Here are some proven benefits of pets for the elderly taken from research the Foundation has collected.
Heart Health — Spending time regularly with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and therefore decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Improved Activity — Walking, grooming or playing with a pet frequently increases the time spent doing physical activity and exercise, which in turn has countless health benefits.
Healthy Behaviour — Pet owners tend to take better care of themselves in general. Caring for a pet helps to develop a routine which encourages owners to maintain better routines to eat regularly or complete chores and other tasks.
Social & Emotional Benefits
Increased Interaction — Walking a dog gets older adults out of the house and increases their opportunities to socialise with neighbours, friends, family or strangers in the park.
Decreased Loneliness — Pets provide companionship, giving older adults a source of love, affection, conversation and activity.
Stress Relief — Being with a pet increases levels of the “feel good” hormone, serotonin, which relieves stress. It also provides physical touch contact, which helps to calm anxiety as well as many other benefits.
Better Self-Esteem — It can be hard coming to terms with getting older and the limitations it can bring with it. Pets are a welcome reminder to older adults that they are still loved and needed.
Sense of Purpose — Owning an animal gives someone a reason to get up in the morning. Pets combat depression symptoms by eliminating feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Knowing they are loved and needed enhances an older person’s mental health.
Memory -– Pet ownership is also thought to help preserve memory and thinking according to research presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting.
They found that long-term pet ownership is linked to lower levels of memory and thinking decline in those over the age of 50 compared to those who did not have a companion animal.
What is the best pet for an older person?
Cats can be just as friendly and loveable as dogs but need less looking after. Generally, they are low maintenance and live more independently than dogs. Of course, this also depends on the breed and age of the cat. Kittens will have more energy and may require extra time and attention compared to an older cat. The personality of the cat should also be taken into consideration where possible, especially if adopting an older cat. The breed of the cat will also affect how much care it will need. For example, some pedigree cats need a lot of grooming.
Dogs are considered to be one of the best pets for older people. Owning a dog requires care and attention to be given every day. This can give older adults a purpose and a focus each day, especially for those who struggle to give up a busy lifestyle. Walking a dog twice daily provides an elderly person with a reason to get up and out of the house for some fresh air and exercise. Dogs are also a great conversation starter to get an elderly person socialising with people they meet. Very often dog owners will know the names of all the dogs they meet but not the names of the human owners they chat to daily!
Again, it’s important to take the breed of dog into consideration before deciding. Size, temperament and energy levels can vary greatly and all impact the care needs of the dog.
Bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils
If cats and dogs are not suitable, there are other small furry animals that can provide the same benefits. Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils are social creatures too. Getting more than one (depending on breed) allows them to keep themselves entertained all day too.
They can be kept inside or outside and need a large enclosure in the garden so they can run around and stretch their legs. They are fairly easy to care for and are perfect for people who can’t commit to walking a dog daily but still want to care for an animal and enjoy some cuddles.
Consider adopting a pet
Puppies, kittens and young animals are always more work and need more time and attention. This is something to consider when searching for a pet for an older adult.
It’s a good idea to consider adopting a pet as an older adult. Rescue centres often have detailed information about the history and needs of the animal which means you can find a pet with a personality that matches perfectly with your own. They will generally be much easier to manage and you will be giving an animal a loving and comfortable home for it to live out its days.
If you are a pet owner who is finding the day-to-day tasks of caring for your pet, yourself or your home are becoming increasingly difficult, Eximius can help. We have a range of care options to help you continue to live comfortably and independently in your own home. Contact us here for more information.