Pets Offer Furry Companionship and More to Older Adults
by Brandee Cowley, RN BSN, Apostolic Christian Skylines Home Care Services
A pet can be a great friend. Especially during the long winter months, the unconditional love of a pet can be a source of companionship and comfort to an older adult who lives alone. The benefits of pet ownership go beyond companionship: research has shown that living with a pet provides important health benefits to the pet owner.
Pets Help You Stay Healthy
Even though seniors usually do not adopt a pet for health reasons, they nevertheless enjoy health benefits when they include a pet in their lives. Among them:
- More exercise
Several studies have shown dog owners get more exercise than people who do not have a dog. Having a pet that must have exercise can motivate an older adult who has lost interest in physical activity to re-engage.
- Heart health
The American Heart Associationsays that pet ownership may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Pets lower blood pressure and pulse rate. Some data even indicates that pets help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and that owners with heart issues are more likely to survive heart attacks.
- Stress reduction
Pet owners’ hearts adapt better to stressful situations those who do not own a pet.
- Staying socially connected
Taking your dog around the neighborhood for walks may lead to more conversations with neighbors and other dog owners and help you stay socially connected.
Finding a Pet
Especially for older adults, the best place to find a pet is a local shelter. Mature animals are a better fit for the lifestyle and energy level of a senior. In the Peoria area, the Peoria Humane Society (peoriahs.org), which offers dogs and cats for adoption, is a good place to start looking.
Some things an older adult and those assisting in the search should consider when purchasing a pet:
- Is the prospective pet owner a good match for having a pet? An older adult may not be an ideal candidate to be a first-time pet owner. Individuals who do not have the flexibility and the willingness to adapt to the change that comes with the arrival of a new pet should not attempt it. Previous pet experience, however, is a good sign an adoption will be successful.
- The pet’s age matters. A puppy or kitten requires more care and attention than a more mature animal and may not be a good choice for an older adult. On the other hand, a pet that is too old may have medical issues that can soon be a problem for an owner on a fixed budget.
- The pet’s activity level should be considered. While a small size may be a better fit for a senior’s available space and lifestyle, it does not necessarily mean low energy. On the other hand, a pet that needs a great deal of exercise may be an ideal match for someone who needs more exercise. There are no hard and fast rules about the energy levels of particular breeds; the best strategy is to assess the individual pet’s energy level before you purchase.
- Find a pet that is healthy. Work with a shelter that provides a medical exam, neutering, and evidence of shots. Regardless, expect to take your pet to its veterinarian regularly so it stays in good health.
- Two pets may not be better than one. Multiple pets can keep each other company, but that may not be a good idea for an older owner. They may bond with each other instead of the owner.
- Pets can be expensive. Make sure the owner’s budget can handle food, grooming and medical care. The ASPCA says that annual expenses can be $700 for a dog or cat. Initial expenses can be as much as $500, less if the adoption agency or shelter covers initial medical expenses. Unplanned medical bills later on can stress a fixed budget.
Pet ownership can be a source of happiness, comfort and companionship for an older adult. While it is not the right choice for everyone, the responsibility for the care of a pet can lend a sense of purpose to the life of someone who lives on their own.
AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home care and nursing services for older adults and offers its clients assistance with the care and feeding of their pet. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.