The Healing Power of Pets for Seniors
Let’s be honest. It can be lonely to grow older. Participating in activities that were once enjoyed becomes harder because loved ones have moved or died. Pets can provide seniors with comfort and companionship in many ways.
Pet ownership is beneficial for older people.
Animals can reduce stress and lower Blood Pressure. They also increase social interaction and physical activity and decrease stress. Pets offer other benefits, too.
Psychotherapist Jay P. Granat from New Jersey says that dogs and cats are very present-oriented. They don’t think about tomorrow, which can be scary for older people. Animals embody the present moment, and this sense tends to rub on people.
The effects of pets on loneliness and depression can be astounding.
Linda Anderson and her husband Allen founded the Angel Animals Network, a pet-ownership organization in Minneapolis, to raise awareness about the benefits of pet ownership.
Marjorie Douse and Richard Douse could not be more in agreement. Bonnie, the golden retriever pup they adopted soon after retiring, quickly became a family member.
Bonnie never left us feeling alone. “As we aged, and went out less often, Bonnie provided us with loving company,” her owners say.
Bonnie’s outgoing nature also enriched the lives of many other seniors. Bonnie was taken to a nursing home near her family, where she became a favorite with residents and staff.
Penny B. Donnenfeld is a psychologist in New York City who has seen animals improve memory recall for their elderly owners. She even brings her golden retriever/mix, Sandee, to the office.
She explains that she has seen people with memory loss interact and gain access to long-forgotten memories when they are with animals. “Having a senior pet helps them focus on something else other than their physical issues and negative preoccupations with loss or aging.”
Adoption benefits animals, too, especially when seniors adopt older pets.
These lucky animals are taken from the pound and brought to paradise. “Retired adopters have a lot of time to dedicate to an unwanted pet and form a lasting relationship,” says Chicago veterinarian Dr. Tony Kremer. He runs Help Save Pets with his wife, Meg.
How to Choose the Right Pet For a Senior
There are many benefits to pet ownership, but there are also some downsides that you should be aware of. Dr. Donnenfeld urges seniors and their caregivers to thoroughly discuss pet ownership before bringing a new pet into the home.
Ten Questions to Ask Before Buying a Pet For a Senior
- Are the seniors set in their ways
- The Andersons say that if change is not your loved one’s cup of tea, they might not be the best candidate. Adopting a pet can change a person’s daily routine.
- Has the child ever had a pet?
- Amy Sherman, a licensed therapist and the author of Distress-Free Aging, A Boomer’s Guide to Creating a Fulfilled and purposeful life, believes an older adult should be able to own a vehicle. First-time owners can be great if they’re open to a new, rewarding responsibility.
- Does this senior suffer from any disabilities or limitations in their functional abilities?
- Dr. Donnenfeld says that dogs can be great companions for seniors who want to get some exercise. Dogs can pose a challenge to those with limited mobility. Cats and birds are less demanding than dogs, so they may be a better choice if dog walking is too difficult.
- Is a therapy or emotional support dog beneficial?
- A person who is severely infirm or disabled person may qualify for a therapy dog that has been specially trained to assist them at home and on trips.
- Which age pet is best?
- The intensive training and care a puppy or kitten requires can be too much for older owners. Moreover, pets can outlive their owners. It would help if you also considered that certain animals, like birds, have a long lifespan. Senior pets may be ill or have physical limitations but are often well-trained.
- Which temperament is best suited for older people?
- Researching the characteristics of different breeds and interacting with potential adoptees will help you understand their personalities and energy level. Many older people may think that a Jack Russell Terrier is the best breed for them because they are small, but these dogs have a lot of energy and need a lot of commitment,” says Susan Daffron. She also authorizes Happy Hound: Develop an Amazing Relationship with Your Adopted Dog or Puppy. There are general truths regarding specific breeds, but every animal is different.
- Does the pet seem healthy?
- Before adopting a pet, the animal must be examined by a professional. “You do not want to compromise the immune system of an older person because some pets carry disease,” Dr. Katharine H. Hillestad, a veterinarian in Rhinelander. Seniors can find it challenging to deal with unhealthful pets financially and emotionally.
- Two pets or one?
- Multiple pets can be good for keeping each other company, but it may not work well for older people. Dr. Hillestad says that two animals can bond more with each other than with their owners.
- Is money a problem?
- Pets require a substantial financial investment over the long term. In its first year, a small puppy could cost more than $810 in food, toys, medical care, and grooming. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty, a low-maintenance pet like a cat is cheaper, costing about $235. Consider the current budget of a senior before bringing home an animal.
- Do you have a plan for your pet’s backup?
- Even though it’s not pleasant to consider, owners should plan for the unexpected. What would happen to an animal if a senior was to be hospitalized, spend time in a rehabilitation facility, or move to a community that provides long-term care? What would happen to their animal(s) if they died? It’s not uncommon for us to experience a very unpredictable golden age. Therefore, it is essential to prepare a plan of action in advance. Your beloved pets may be in a shelter if you don’t have one.
How to find a pet for an older person
Breeders can be a great source of animals, but adopting them from shelters will usually cost less, and you’ll also have the benefit of saving an unwanted animal from being euthanized. Some covers offer reduced adoption costs for adopters and older pets.
Daffron says that shelter employees are often familiar with the personalities of each animal and can help make a match. Sites like Petfinder.com allow potential pet owners to shop online for pets. They have a database of animals available to adopt from over 11,000 animal rescue and adoption groups nationwide. It’s best to meet the potential pet to gauge their fit better.