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What Are the Health Benefits of Older Adults Owning Pets?

senior man with his dog

It’s hard to look at any social media feeds and not be bombarded with images of cats, dogs, and a variety of other pets. Seeing all those cute interactions is bound to make someone who’s never had a pet consider getting one. Besides having a cute subject to take photos and videos of, are there any health benefits of having a pet?

This blog post will look at the benefits of pet ownership, suggest some things to consider before getting a pet, and suggest pet options for older adults.

Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

While people have had any number of different animals throughout human history, most of the research on the benefits of pets is centered around one particular furry friend: dogs. Whether you prefer having a dog, cat, fish, bird, rabbit, or another type of pet, there are senior health benefits to be had with all. Speaking of dogs in particular, these benefits can include:

  • Feeling Loved: A dog’s unconditional love can help lift your spirits and lighten your mood.
  • Socialization: Other people love pets too — especially other dog owners — making it easy to meet people and make new friends. Research has found owning a pet increases the opportunity to socialize. In fact, pet owners are  60% more likely than non-pet owners to get to know people in their area. Taking your dog on a stroll can be a great conversation starter.
  • Companionship: The presence of a dog or cat can help you feel less lonely and can provide reassuring nuzzles and emotional support. Research has found that older adults who have a pet are 36% less likely to report feeling lonely than those who didn’t.
  • Therapy: Dogs are great listeners and are often used to help people open up about problems and deal with depression.
  • Purpose: Caring for another living being can add a sense of purpose to our lives. The daily activities of feeding, watering, and exercising/playing can establish a routine that adds structure to our days.
  • Reduce Stress: The brains of dog owners have been shown to release a hormone known as oxytocin, which can help lower stress levels.
  • Get Moving: The physical activity of taking your dog on daily walks has benefits for both of you. Experts generally agree that adults age 65 and older need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for good health. Research found that people who own a dog walk 22 minutes longer on average than those who don’t have a dog. Even a low-intensity daily 20-minute walk can improve heart health, lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
  • Faster recovery: Pets are so good at helping us see the bright side that many hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care centers have pet visitation programs.

Types of Pets to Consider

  • Cats: They don’t require daily walks or constant attention, making a cat a good option for some senior adults. Plus, they thrive indoors.
  • Dogs: Known as devoted companions, dogs are great for aging seniors who enjoy daily walks and playtime.
  • Rabbits: Like cats, rabbits can do well indoors and like using a litter box. Also, they usually enjoy cuddles.
  • Fish: At the very basic level, fish only need a small freshwater aquarium that’s easy to maintain, making fish an easy pet to care for. Plus, you can even create a fun underwater theme using tank ornaments.
  • Birds: Some bird species can live a long time. While treating a health issue can be expensive, they’re typically fairly low-maintenance.

What to Know Before Getting a Pet

Here are some factors to think about before getting a pet:

  • Cost: Having a pet is a fairly significant long-term commitment; so is the cost of their care. Be sure to consider your finances before choosing a pet.
  • Care required: How often will your pet need to be taken to the vet, groomed or bathed? Look for a pet that doesn’t need much maintenance and isn’t prone to health problems.
  • Age: Almost everyone loves puppies and kittens, but you may want to consider an older or even a senior dog or cat. They usually don’t have the energy levels of younger animals and are typically potty trained.
  • Activity level: This mostly applies to dogs. Just because a dog is small doesn’t make it the best dog breeds for older adults, because you also have to consider the level of exercise and stimulation the dog requires. Whether you choose a dog or another type of pet, make sure it fits your lifestyle.
  • Size: Carefully consider the size of a dog in case they’re prone to jumping or chasing. You don’t want your dog to knock you down or pull you over when they’re on a leash.

John Knox Village. Your Pet-Friendly Senior Living Community.

If you’re looking at senior living communities in Kansas City, MO, and a top “must have” is a pet-friendly community, consider John Knox Village. One of our friendly senior living consultants would be happy to tell you more about our pet policy and what you and your furry friend can expect. You can either contact us here or call 816-251-8000. Now is also a great time for you and your pet to check us out because plans are currently underway to add 52 beautiful apartment homes to our independent living community.