Seniors’ best friends? Maybe. The way pets can make us feel is legend.
When we see our family pet jumping for joy, get a sloppy kiss from our furry friend or have a warm, snuggly cat sit in our laps it can simply give us a good feeling. Our heart rate drops, our face breaks out in a smile, our worries fly out the window and chances are pretty good we feel happy.
Does all this warm emotion translate into longevity?
Health Benefits of Pets for Seniors
- Daily physical activity – seniors have to walk, clean, feed, and play with their pets every day. There is no holiday from pet care. This means that your senior has to get up out of bed and get off the couch during the day to care for the family pet thereby staying physically active.
- Decreased heart rate and lower blood pressure – in a study of coronary disease patients who have had heart attacks, the mortality rate was reduced by one third for those who had pets. Being physically active during the day and reducing overall stress are good for the heart.
- Reduced stress and anxiety – 65% of seniors say that just touching their pet makes them feel better. A pet and the love felt by caring for a pet can have a calming effect.
- Mood enhancement – unconditional love from pets can help seniors feel happy. Looking into the adoring eyes of a pet or receiving a slobbering lick will definitely keep a smile on the faces of our seniors and keep the frowns at bay. Pets don’t judge us or our behavior.
- Fight isolation through companionship – a pet is a constant companion, a presence that can be depended on through thick and thin and day to day. Your senior can talk to the pet (95 % of seniors talk with their pets and 57% report they confide in their pets) and make them feel that they are not alone.
- Make new friends – sometimes having a pet can also help a senior make a friend during a visit to the park or while taking a walk. An animal is a great conversation starter. 58% of pet owners say they made a friend through their pet. 62% said that when their pets are present during a visit, they feel conversation is easier and they feel more sociable.
- Help maintain a consistent daily routine – being responsible for another living thing forces a senior to get the day started at a usual time in order to care for a pet. It also means that a schedule of activities throughout the day will have to be followed so that the pet’s needs are met.
- Giving life a sense of purpose – knowing that someone cares for them, having to be present each day and realizing that without them the pet would not survive will help your senior feel useful instead of helpless.
- Safety and security – a senior can get a sense of security by having a pet in the house with them.
- Fewer trips to the doctor – it has been shown that seniors who own pets visit the doctor less often than those without pets.
Researchers have found that owning a pet is the strongest social predictor for survival. Seniors who have the responsibility for caring for a pet and receiving the love and companionship that a pet gives has been shown to improve the quality of life for seniors.
So, yes, maybe seniors’ best friends!