Seniors struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation may benefit from the joy and comfort of a pet companion.
While we all might feel lonely from time to time, older adults are at an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation. This can be due to chronic illness or the loss of family or friends.
Animals have the ability to help reduce stress and increase physical and social activity, among other health benefits.
Pet companionship for seniors can bring new happiness and purpose. Learn the benefits of these furry friends and how to pick the right pet for your loved one.
What are the Benefits of Pet Companionship for Seniors?
The CDC considers senior loneliness and social isolation to be a serious public health risk.
More than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered socially isolated.
Seniors are at a greater risk for loneliness and social isolation because they often live alone, have a chronic illness or hearing loss, or have suffered the losses of family and friends.
Loneliness can put a senior’s health at risk in the following ways:
- Increased risk of dementia, heart disease, and stroke
- Higher rates of depression and anxiety
- Increased risk of premature death from all causes
- Greater risk of hospitalization and emergencies among heart failure patients
Pet companionship has the ability to combat these health risks in numerous ways, from relieving stress to lowering blood pressure.
It’s possible to help a loved one overcome their loneliness by introducing a furry friend into their lives.
Let’s look at some of the greatest health benefits of pet companionship for seniors.
Reduced Stress and Renewed Purpose
Pet companions have the ability to calm anxiety by providing affection, conversation opportunities, and physical touch.
The comforting presence of a pet offers support to seniors. Talking to a pet, brushing them, petting them, and feeding them are not only soothing activities, but can also give seniors a purpose.
Your loved one can feel that they are needed by their pet, which helps with depression symptoms such as hopelessness or lack of self-worth.
Improved Heart Health
While reduced stress naturally helps protect the heart, even the American Heart Association has found that owning pets, and especially dogs, is associated with a longer life.
The risk of deaths for heart attack and stroke survivors dropped significantly in those who had a dog companion.
Pet ownership in general is believed to contribute to lower blood pressure, a lower heart rate, and faster recovery from mental stress.
Greater Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
A pet’s unconditional love and affection can provide your loved one with comfort, courage, and improved self-esteem.
Dog owners must walk their dogs, which contributes to a more physically active lifestyle and opportunities to socialize with neighbors.
Studies have shown that pet owners take better care of themselves, because pets create routine and can naturally encourage better eating and exercise habits in their owners.
What Type of Pet Companion is Best for Seniors?
The most popular pet companions for seniors include dogs, cats, and birds.
The type of pet that’s best for your loved one can depend on many factors, including your loved one’s lifestyle preferences and their physical abilities.
Consider the following factors prior to finding a pet for your loved one.
Age and Breed of Pet
A puppy or kitten might require a lot of training and care, which could be too much work for your senior loved one.
It may make more sense to adopt an older pet from a local shelter that is calm and already trained. However, this depends on your loved one’s physical abilities and preferences.
Certain breeds, specifically in dogs, can have varying personalities and energy levels. Talk to a local shelter or vet to learn more about the type of breed that would best suit your loved one’s personality.
Type of Pet
Furry companions are the most popular pet choice for seniors, but there are several types of pets to choose from.
If your loved one is active and enjoys the outdoors, a dog can be a perfect pet. If they need a more low-maintenance pal, a cat or a bird could make a great roommate.
Your loved one may even enjoy a pet fish, turtle, or frog.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are prescribed by licensed mental health professionals. The professional must determine that the animal’s presence is needed for a person’s mental health.
ESAs are not service animals, so they don’t receive the same accommodations. Instead, their purpose is to provide support and companionship.
How Will My Loved One Care for a Pet as They Age?
While the idea of getting a pet for your loved one might sound promising, you may have concerns about how your loved one will continue to care for the pet as they age.
If there’s a family member willing to assist your loved one with walking their pet or running out to purchase supplies, this can be a great help to your loved one and their pet companion.
You also may consider moving your loved one to a senior living community that welcomes pets and helps residents take care of them.
The Kensington Sierra Madre Welcomes Pet Companions
The Kensington Sierra Madre is an assisted living and memory care community that encourages pet companionship for seniors.
Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own, and this promise includes caring for your loved one’s precious pets.
Our Team Will Care for Your Loved One’s Pet If They Cannot
Our team can take care of an animal if a resident is unable to, ensuring they can enjoy all the benefits of a pet companion without the stress of performing difficult pet-care activities.
Learn more about pet companionship and pet therapy at The Kensington.
Reach out to our team today.
In this way, we are able to become a true home for our residents and their families.