There are many things older adults no longer have to worry about, such as working a full-time job or raising small children. But even though reduced responsibilities may seem good, the extra downtime can induce feelings of loneliness. Pet ownership can provide companionship, comfort and entertainment for people of all ages, including those living out their golden years. Here are a few top health benefits pets can provide for older individuals.
Loneliness is estimated to impact more than half of adults in the United States. However, older individuals with a pet are 36% less likely to feel lonely than people who don’t own pets. Dogs and cats make particularly great companion animals. But some older individuals prefer birds, guinea pigs or other smaller animals.
Sense of Purpose
Pets can’t take care of themselves. They must be fed, given water, and kept clean and healthy. They help their owners feel needed and can impart a strong sense of purpose. Sometimes, older adults feel like they aren’t very useful because they no longer have small children to care for. Owning a pet can restore a sense of responsibility and value. Plus, caring for pets can add structure and routine daily, two things adults in their golden years are less likely to have.
Dogs and cats can help boost their owners’ fitness through play. Cats love to chase strings around the house, and dogs love to go on walks. Older adults who might not get much physical activity are likelier to stay active when they have an energetic pet. Research shows that people who own dogs tend to walk more than people who don’t own dogs. Walking is a highly beneficial exercise for older people because it helps them stay fit and healthy without putting too much pressure on their joints or cardiovascular systems.
It’s generally much easier for humans to connect when they share something in common. Many older individuals feel very passionate about pet ownership and may have an easier time building relationships with other pet owners. Human connection is essential for both physical and mental health. Taking a dog for a walk is a great way to meet other animal lovers in the general public and boost opportunities for social interaction.
Older adults may recover more quickly from injuries or illnesses if they have pets. One study shows that 70% of older individuals had an easier time coping with emotional or physical symptoms thanks to their pets. Pets can be very comforting, and their funny antics can help distract from pain and discomfort. If you think the older adults in your life could benefit from the above physical and emotional health benefits of pet ownership, consider shopping for a dog or cat today.