Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.
― Christopher Hitchens
Either way, whatever your choice of pet may be – dog or cat or rabbit or bird – the real benefits are many and varied. (I suppose pet goldfish, horses, pigs, turtles or any other creature rate the same on benefits – or, let’s just assume they do!)
I know a lot of seniors who’ve retired and soon realized they were bored and lonely. Their spouses had passed away or they were divorced, or never married, no kids, no grandkids. Work was no longer a daily focus. Loneliness set in – whatever. They tried their hand at a few hobbies and even took on part-time jobs. However, nothing they did filled that empty space in their lives.
Until they adopted a pet.
Everyone I’ve known who’s adopted a pet said it changed their lives and their attitudes towards it. There truly is a huge connection between pets and people, and that interaction comes with many surprising benefits:
1. Love & Companionship
Many seniors, once they retire from work, find their social circle shrinks and loneliness becomes a problem. A dog or cat (or other pet) often becomes their best friend. Now there’s a daily reason to get up, go for a walk or to engage in play. Now there’s a companion to talk to, to hug and to love. Unconditionally.
2. Lowered Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be life threatening and is one of the main health challenges for seniors. Having to care for a pet dog or cat can help a senior relax and encourages them to exercise – two factors that contribute to lower blood pressure and improved overall health.
3. Social Interaction
They say walking a dog is like having a ‘people magnet’. Everyone comes up to you and engages in conversation if you’re out and about with your furry friend. Well, seniors who own pets can enjoy more social interaction, too. Their social circle expands as they visit the dog park, join a guinea pig show club or share tips on lizard care online with other reptile owners.
Heck, there are even cat cafes where you can interact with kitties and pussycats galore if you can’t have a fur ball of your own. To name a few:
4. Increased Physical Activity
Physical exercise is essential for everyone, particularly seniors. The right pet encourages seniors to get up and move around more often. Throw a ball or a stick. Flutter a feathery, fluffy thingy around. The animals love it. You get some exercise. Not much more needs to be said here.
5. Decreased Depression
Caring for a pet gives seniors something else to think about beside themselves. Pets make people happy and give folks a reason to live.
6. Reduced Stress
Health, financial and social challenges can create stress for a senior. Having a pet has been proven to lower cortisol, the stress-inducing hormone, and increase serotonin, the feel-good hormone.
Not only seniors but also everyone can experience the benefits to their overall health and well being that can be attributed to having a pet or interacting with animals.
How to Get Started
Why not look into or visit your local SPCA or animal shelter and adopt a pet today? Or, if adoption isn’t in the cards for you, consider becoming a volunteer and get your dog or cat ‘fix’ that way.