According to the American Pet Products Association, there are over 83 million dog owners and over 95 million cat owners in the United States. These high numbers are just one sign of many that pet companionship can positively impact your life. But did you know, the benefits of pet companionship can be even greater for the elderly?
Many studies show that pet ownership can relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improve mental health. Benefits are tied to owners no longer feeling as lonely as well as experiencing improved physical activity. For example, an elderly person who owns a dog is more likely to walk than those who do not.
Pet ownership can also give elderly persons an opportunity to socialize. People love talking about their pets, and others love interacting with other pet owners. This can often lead to new friendships and can provide beneficial social interactions that elderly people may not have otherwise had the chance to experience.
If you are elderly and considering a pet to improve your quality of life, you’ll want to consider what type of pet. Researching the behaviors of dogs versus cats can help you decide. Consider the size, energy level and age of a dog or cat. If you decide you want to adopt, Animal Shelter employees can provide information on their animals and answer any questions you may have.
A concern that many elderly people considering pet ownership face is the possibility that they will no longer be able to care for their pet later on. But you can research to see if there are volunteer or paid programs for pet care in your community. Programs, like the Pets Forever program run by Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, offer services like walks, provide pet hygiene and yard and litter-box cleanup, administer pet medications, transport pets to veterinary appointments and assist with pet-related errands such as buying pet food and supplies.