Let’s face it! Growing older can be a lonely journey. That’s why it is not easy for seniors to navigate retirement when their friends may move or pass away, and family can sometimes be estranged. But there is always a solution to every problem. In this case, pets are known to have positive impacts on seniors.
From revitalizing health to pampering mental health and increasing social well-being, it comes as no surprise that owning a pet can do many wonders for seniors. More than just companionship, these furry friends have come a long way to become an indispensable part of life, especially for seniors seeking companionship in their retirement years. Learn about the role of pets in senior care and how they enrich seniors’ lives.
The Role of Pets in Senior Care: 6 Reasons Why Having A Pet Is Good For Seniors
Pets in Senior Care: What Are The Advantages?
Discover the healing powers of little furry friends for seniors’ overall health and wellness.
Pets Keeps Seniors Active
Staying active is the most important thing seniors should do to achieve robust aging. Health experts suggest seniors aged 65 and over should get up and move their bodies for at least 150 minutes a week (30 minutes per day).
However, most seniors find it challenging to keep up with their exercise routine, primarily due to tremendous changes in their overall health. Luckily, a study from Michigan State University revealed that pets like dogs can give the biggest health boost to seniors by encouraging physical activity, claiming that people owning a dog are more likely to meet their fitness goals by up to 34%.
As walking is the most effortless exercise that anyone can do, walking the dog helps seniors become more active and engaged in physical activity while having memorable moments with their dogs along the trail. Regular exercise has been shown to improve muscle strength, heart health, and mobility in seniors. Other activities with dogs, such as fetching and grooming, are a great way to help seniors with joint issues renew their dexterity.
Pets Relieve Feelings of Loneliness in Seniors
According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, 34% of adults aged 50 to 80 reported feeling lonely as of January 2023. Although the proportion has drastically dropped from more than half (56%) amid the peak pandemic of 2020, it is still higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2018 by up to 7%. Loneliness in seniors has become so prevalent that it has become a public health concern. It is linked to many health and mental health implications, including chronic stress, depression, stroke, and premature death.
While taking up new hobbies, meeting new friends, and seeking professional help are several helpful steps to overcome loneliness, the company of a pet is another excellent way to reduce loneliness in seniors, supporting them in becoming more in tune with the outside world. This is especially beneficial for seniors living alone or without emotional support after their children move out. Unconditional love and support from pets can help seniors improve their mood, rediscover happiness, and lower the risks of health issues associated with loneliness.
Pets Make Seniors Feel Needed
Increasing age and deteriorating brain health may cause seniors to feel like they are becoming a burden to their family and friends. While this thought may be irrational at times, the bond shared between seniors and pets can help seniors block out toxic thoughts, foster a positive attitude towards life, and have greater life satisfaction after retirement.
Pets Help Lower Stress
Stress reduction is another health benefit of having a pet. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the impact of pets on their owners, with one study discovering that older adults with strong attachments to their pets are less likely to develop depressive symptoms.
Spending more time with pets reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thereby relieving stress and lowering depression risks. Whether walking the dog or meeting other pet owners, seniors can divert their minds from negative thoughts, fostering more relaxation and meaningful relationships when outdoors. All of these are critical for seniors’ mental wellness in the long run.
Pets Increase Social Connection
A growing number of seniors find it challenging to stay in touch with others and form new connections as they age. This has led to seniors’ greater tendency to lock themselves in and stay inside their homes. While it can depend on each senior’s personality, the lack of social interaction can gradually give rise to a slew of age-related health conditions. However, pets can be a great asset to enrich seniors’ lives and bring them closer to the outside world and other human beings.
It was found that seniors who frequently walk their dogs have a higher sense of community, aside from increased physical activity. By taking the dog on a stroll around the neighborhood or the park, seniors can feel more confident striking up a conversation with other dog owners, where they can share their love for animals or discuss pet tips. Moreover, such occasions are also perfect for seniors’ dogs to meet and socialize with other dogs.
Pets Restructure Seniors’ Lives
Retirement is the perfect season of life for seniors to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday working life. They now have more time to do things they never had a chance to do before. While having extra time on hand can be such a blessing for some seniors, others may fall into patterns of doing the same things every day, losing their sense of purpose and social interest over time. Newfound freedom can be a double-edged sword, turning contentment and excitement into boredom and aimlessness.
Caring for a dog can restructure seniors’ lives. These four-legged friends help seniors move forward and regain their sense of self-worth by establishing a joint daily routine with their pet. A regular schedule of feeding, grooming, and playing allows seniors to maintain a sense of responsibility while enhancing their cognitive functions and sensory senses. Seniors can go to bed every night feeling motivated and optimistic about tomorrow, knowing their little friends are waiting for them outside the door.
Taking care of a pet can be draining, so becoming a full-time pet caretaker might not always be the optimal solution for some seniors. Instead, they can partially surround themselves with animals by volunteering at pet shelters and rescue organizations.
If you have questions about the role of pets in senior care or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks Senior Living Communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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