As a person gets older, changes to mobility, health, and energy level can keep us from being as socially active as we used to be. Pet ownership is a proven way to naturally counteract the negative effects of a decrease in social activity. Here are some things you will want to consider before deciding if pet ownership is right for you or someone you know.
Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors
Having contact with a pet can have positive effects across the board in terms of health, both mental and physical. After reading the benefits you will see why owning a pet is such a popular idea.
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The physical health benefits of pet ownership in seniors includes…
1. Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can damage our arteries, which can lead to increased chance of a heart attack (mayoclinic.org). The American Heart Association Council reported on the findings of various studies that showed evidence pet owners were more likely to have lower blood pressure and that being exposed to a pet could lower your blood
2. Lower Cholesterol
High Cholesterol causes blockage in the arteries that can also lead to increased chances of a heart attack. Increased activity of pet owners, especially for dog owners going on regular walks, helps lower cholesterol (cdc.gov).
3. Lower Triglyceride Levels
High Triglyceride levels can cause thickening of the artery walls which can increase chance of a heart attack. Pet owners have been shown in studies to have lower levels of Triglyceride.
4. Higher Heart Attack Recovery Rate
The American Heart Association Council also reports on various studies that show evidence that pet owners are more likely to recover and heal after a heart attack.
5. Increased Mobility
Regular dog walking has been shown to reduce risk for obesity.
6. Pain Relief
Some studies show that interaction with a pet can lead a recovering patient to need less pain medicine (sciencedaily.com).
7. Improved Brain Health
Increased physical activity not only improves your heart health, but as you improve the health of your body, you also improve the way your brain functions (health.clevelandclinic.org).
The more emotional and social health benefits includes…
1. Increased Social Activity
You interact with your pet, other people interact with your pet, your pet interacts with other people and their pets. Animals often draw people into interactions and conversations they would not normally attempt.
2. Higher Self Esteem
Being able to achieve pet care goals offers a boost of confidence.
3. Sense of Purpose
Having a routine with your pet can help you feel needed.
4. Less Loneliness
A pet’s companionship can be immensely comforting. Loneliness and isolation can lead to depression.
5. Less Stress
Studies have shown that pet owners are less reactive to stress events than non pet owners. Pets can increase serotonin levels, and even just thinking of them can calm anxiety.
6. Healthy Behavior
Having a little companion relying on you really encourages you to take better care of yourself.
Questions to Ask Before Getting a Pet
What are the physical needs of the pet?
If you are very mobile and active a young dog could be a great fit. If you are less mobile, an older dog or a cat would be better. It is important for the health and happiness of both parties to have a good match in activity level. If your pet requires regular transportation for vet visits or exercise, make sure to have a plan ready for how to get transportation.
Are there any rules in the neighborhood or place of residence about pets?
Some places will have breed restrictions, weight restrictions, deposit requirements, and other types of rules to consider. Some places may not allow pets at all, such as some rentals and homes.
What is the overall expense of a pet?
Food costs, vet costs, toys, treats, flea control, and more. These costs can add up over the course of a year for your pet, and it is wise to consider your budget.
Should I buy or adopt?
Buying a young pet from a breeder or pet store means you have a fresh start with your pet and you know its history. This can be more expensive however, and should only be considered if you have the time and energy to train a young animal. Adopting is often cheaper with the disadvantage of not knowing much about the animal’s past, and any possible behavior problems. Older pets can be found that have training though which may be perfect. In any case, taking the time to find a pet that has training and care needs matching your capabilities and lifestyle is the key to success.
How to Find the Right Pet for You
Whether you are interested in buying or adopting your pet there are many resources available to help find the right pet. Some places to consider reaching out to are:
– Local Animal Shelters
– Pet Adoption Agencies
– Social Media Groups
– Pet Shops/ Breeders
– Personal Assistants, such as your Companion Caretaker from Senior Check-In
Having someone, such as your companion caretaker, help you with the acquisition of a pet can lighten the load and make things easier. Here is info about some popular pet choices that can help you decide which pet may be right for you:
– Yearly Cost: $1,500 to $9,900 (thesprucepets.com)
– Pro: Unconditional love and companionship. Encouragement to be active, Cuddly
– Con: May need too much exercise or attention, training may be required, dogs may be destructive.
–Ideal Match: You want to go on a walk everyday (or more depending on breed and age), you have a lot of time to give your dog attention, you are home often or able to take your pooch with you when you go, you would like a faithful companion at your side, you are ready for a best friend. (Note: younger animals will have more energy and require more exercise and training)
– Yearly Cost: $425-$3,120 (dailypaws.com)
– Pro: Low maintenance, companionship, less expensive than a dog, entertaining, cuddly(most of the time)
– Con: litter box requires regular cleaning, still added living expense, cats can be destructive.
– Ideal Match: You can get around the house but aren’t as active, you want a nap buddy, you are ready for a best friend, you are able to acknowledge that the cat is in charge. (Note: younger animals will have more energy and require more exercise and training)
– Yearly Cost: $20-$150 (birdcagesnow.com)
– Pro: Low maintenance, low space needs, low care cost, smaller messes
– Con: noisy, short life span 8-12 yrs, gets sick easily
– Ideal Match: Your mobility is limited, you are able to do a weekly cage cleaning or have a care assistant that can, you love to watch birds, you enjoy bird chirps and find them comforting.
– Yearly Cost: $85-$450 (petplace.com)
– Pro: Relaxing, requires little attention, doubles as home decor,
– Con: lots to learn for beginners, regular tank and water maintenance is crucial, cost can add up quickly
– Ideal Match: You or someone you know is able to perform regular tank cleanings, you want a soothing and peaceful addition to your living space, you are ready to learn how to maintain a new habitat, you can stare at a fish for hours.
If you are struggling with a disability, illness, or other condition, you may consider whether your life could be improved by a service dog. Service dogs are usually trained for your specific needs. You can talk to your doctor and get a written recommendation if it would be an ideal addition to your care plan. From there finding a local company that trains service dogs would be the next step.
Another thing to consider, if none of these options really seem like the right fit for you, is that you can still experience the amazing boost to your health a pet can provide just by having a visit with one. Maybe you know someone that can bring a well trained pet for a visit? If not, there are many organizations and nonprofits that offer pet therapy and can bring a pet to you (mayoclinic.org).
Owning a pet can have amazing benefits to your health, especially your heart health and your mental health. If you can afford the expense, time, and energy that goes into your chosen pal, then make sure to utilize the resources of the community around you to find your perfect companion. Local shelters, neighborhood groups, and nonprofits are sure to be of use, as well as your companion caretaker from Senior Check-In. You can also utilize these resources to locate pet therapy services if you decide owning a pet isn’t right for you.
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