Few things compare to the joy of coming home to a loving companion who can’t wait to see you. It feels good to have a housemate who showers you with unconditional love, is excited simply because you walked in the door, and smothers you with drooly, slobbery kisses.
Yep, we’re talking about the “pawsitive” power of pets (lest you think we’re suggesting your spouse smothers you with slobbery kisses). Pets keep us company, help reduce our stress levels and make us feel happier. And particularly for seniors, there are quite a few other remarkable health benefits of pet ownership.
The Big Benefits of Pets
About 70% of American households — a whopping 91 million families — owned a pet in 2021. If you think that’s a staggering number, consider this: During the pandemic, more than 23 million American households, nearly 1 in 5 nationwide, adopted a pet.
While any pet owner can attest to the many benefits of living with a furry friend, research confirming the health benefits of senior pet ownership have appeared in many well-respected publications and medical journals.
Here are 10 recognized benefits of pet ownership for senior citizens.
1. They Offer Companionship
Getting older can be a very lonely experience. Friends move or pass away, and family may become scattered across the country. Unfortunately, loneliness in senior citizens can lead to declines in both emotional and physical health. Pets, however, are always available to you. They adapt to your schedule and needs. Small dogs and cats can also easily travel with you wherever you go.
2. They Give You a Sense of Purpose
If you had kids, you spent your adult life caring for them. But they’re now grown and are independent adults, probably with kids of their own. Yet the need to be useful and be of value in your service to others doesn’t just go away. Having a pet gives you something that relies solely on you for its love and care. And that can be very rewarding.
3. They Provide You with a Routine
Dogs in particular help give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning — and get you out of the house. When they need to do their business, they let you know it’s time to get up and get moving. The routine of caring for a pet can give you structure and a regular routine to your days.
4. They Encourage You to Get Out of the House
We touched on this already, but pets help you stay connected to the world outside your house. You need to take your pet to the vet and the groomer. You need to go to the store to buy food, litter, leashes and toys. You need to go to the dog park to let them run off some energy. Having a pet is a good way to stay involved.
5. They Prompt You to Exercise More
Dogs love to be walked. They love playing fetch. Let’s be honest, dogs just love to run around. Owning a dog can be a great way to make walking a regular part of your daily plans. And yes, you can train cats to play fetch and go for walks on a leash.
6. They Help You Make New Friends
You already have at least one thing in common with every pet owner you meet: You both own a pet. It’s easy to break the ice by asking what their pet’s name is, what their dog’s breed is, or what dog parks they recommend. Or strike up a friendly conversation with someone while you’re waiting at the vet. Pet owners love talking about their pets!
7. They Help You Reduce Your Stress Levels
Older people with pets tend to have reduced stress levels and lower blood pressure than their pet-free peers.
8. They Give You a Feeling of Responsibility
Having a feeling of responsibility is different than having a sense of purpose: This is having a duty or obligation — you’ve made a promise to be responsible for another living thing. Good news is, that responsibility need not be all-consuming. Cats are remarkably low-maintenance, as are fish. Dogs are higher up on the maintenance list, of course, so choose a pet that works with the level of responsibility you’re willing to take on.
9. They Can Stimulate New Interests
Perhaps you want to volunteer at your local animal shelter, or offer to bring your pet to spend time with pediatric patients in your local hospital. Those are just some new opportunities that you may discover when you own a pet.
10. They May Help You Feel Safer
Your dog may be 3 pounds of dog and 10 pounds of fur. And you know its bark is much worse than its bite. But to a would-be burglar, a barking dog may be the perfect deterrent. And if you’re a cat person, snuggling next to a cat during a thunderstorm just feels comforting — even if you’re not even afraid of a little thunder and lightning.
Learn More about Sagewood’s Pet-Friendly Environment
You might be delighted to learn that pets are part of the family at our independent living community. In fact, we even have dog parks right on campus. We also have plenty for you to do, too, from pickleball courts and lifelong learning classes to indoor and outdoor pools and two clubhouses.
Come for a visit to see how much there is to enjoy at Sagewood. To get started, contact us.