Age infers many benefits, among them an incredible knowledge base, mastery of lifelong skills, and a certain wisdom and perspective lacking in youth. Despite all that senior citizens have to offer, though, this group is often marginalized.
When seniors lose a spouse, when children and other family members live far away or get busy with their own lives, and when friends are few and far between, life can become dull and depressing, especially when you throw health problems into the mix. The good news is that pet ownership is an excellent way to improve physical, mental, and emotional health outlooks for seniors.
If you’re a family member worried about how an elderly loved one is coping with the stresses of living alone as a senior, you should consider what having a pet could do for the senior in your life. Here are just a few of the benefits seniors enjoy when they bring a furry friend into the home.
Added Physical Activity
When age, illness, and injuries leave seniors with aching joints and limited mobility, it can be hard for them to find reasons to fight through the pain and get moving. However, remaining active can actually help to ease aches and pains, improve overall physical function, and increase independence and health.
Pets like dogs that need to be walked and played with can provide the impetus for otherwise sedentary seniors to engage in more active pursuits, even if all they do is throw a ball in the backyard or take their pooch for daily walks. Such activities can increase functional fitness, strength, and stamina over time, as well as improve heart health and cardiopulmonary function. If hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, or other disorders are a concern, the added activity associated with pet ownership can improve the situation dramatically.
Without kids to care for or a job to go to daily, some seniors may struggle to create a healthy daily routine. They may forget seemingly obvious tasks like eating, grooming, or cleaning the house, or they might sleep at odd hours of the day and night. Having a pet like a dog or cat that requires regular feeding, daily grooming, and frequent love and attention can get seniors on a set schedule for care that helps them to regulate their personal care routine.
Spending a lot of time alone can be stressful, especially for seniors that suffer from limited mobility, financial burdens, personal loss, or issues like anxiety or depression. Stress can be both mentally and physically draining, but having a pet to love, interact with, and care for can turn this situation around.
Cuddling a pet can reduce anxiety, playing with cats and dogs is fun and entertaining, and exercising with them can improve mood. All of these activities can help to reduce stress by triggering the release of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin.
Opportunities to Socialize
Anyone who has taken an adorable pooch for a walk understands how animals can help with socialization. Friendly dogs want to meet everyone they pass, and plenty of people will stop to pet a furry friend and get a lick on the hand. This provides seniors with the chance to interact socially, meet new people, and perhaps even make friends or find walking partners with their own canine pals.
One of the biggest problems for many seniors is loneliness. At a certain age, it’s natural to lose a partner, family members (parents, siblings, etc.), and lifelong friends. Many seniors also lack opportunities to meet new people and make new friends, especially if they’re housebound due to illness or injury.
Pets are a great way to combat the loneliness many seniors experience. Pets are more than just companions – they’re beloved family members, and as mentioned above, they can provide seniors with the opportunity to add more physical activity and meet new people.
Loss of physical and social assets can be understandably disheartening. When seniors don’t have work to fall back on, they’ve lost loved ones, and/or they’re facing mobility issues, they may start to lose sight of the joys in life. Having a loving pet that they can care for and love in return can give them a sense of purpose and improve their outlook on life.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.