Seniors face an array of challenges they may never have encountered before; perfectly healthy bodies can refuse to cooperate, vision and hearing dim, partners and peers may fade from their day-to-day lives as the result of moving into a retirement community or death. All of these challenges can begin to suck the joy out of living.
In many cases, during our consultations with seniors and their families, we have an unexpected recommendation: adopt a pet.
7 Ways Adopting a Pet Can Improve Life for Seniors
The following are 7 ways that adopting a pet can improve daily life for your senior loved ones, adding a little more love and light in their life.
- They know they’ve made a difference. One of the most frustrating things about life after retirement, especially as the body begins to slow down or is compromised by progressive health conditions, is that seniors begin to feel their lives have no purpose. Adopting a pet provides a loving, safe and nourishing environment for a pet – often saving their life – and this makes seniors feel as if they have been able to make a difference in the life of another being.
- They feel wanted, needed and loved. Most families do their best to visit and touch in with parents, grandparents and other aging elders. However, as seniors watch and listen to the ways everyone’s lives are moving on around them, they can begin to feel as if they are a burden to the ones who love them most. When there is a happy four-legged critter to care for, that feeling does a 180°. All of a sudden the senior feels wanted, needed and loved – and that makes it more satisfying to get out of bed each morning.
- It inspires daily movement and recreation. Most pets need some kind of exercise or movement to stay healthy and entertained. This can get an otherwise homebound senior inspired to take daily walks again, to go outside and sit in the sunshine while throwing a ball, or moving the upper body to inspire their new kitty to get the toy mouse. Any amount of movement is good for physical and mental health.
- It can save their life. If you have a senior who has a serious medical condition, who is blind, or has mobility issues – they may be a candidate for a service dog. These dogs provide a tremendous amount of value, including the ability to alert a senior before a epileptic seizure or when their blood sugar levels are out of whack. They can also be used to help the blind and deaf, as well as therapy dogs for seniors who’ve developed anxiety or depression.
- It eliminates loneliness. What a terrible feeling it is to be lonely. Even seniors who live in senior communities can feel isolated, especially if they aren’t able to get out and about without help, or if they have recently lost their spouse, partner or closest friends. A pet is a built-in, unconditionally loving family member or friend who can transform a lonely and depressed senior into a more outgoing, positive and active member of their community.
- Pets lower blood pressure and improve health. Studies have shown over and over that pet owners report feeling less stressed and have measurably lower blood pressure than their non-petted counterparts. In fact, pets are known to provide multiple health benefits to their owners, and some of these wind up reducing the risk of heart attack, strokes, and other debilitating or fatal conditions linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.
- They increase social interactions. There are two things in life that will draw strangers right towards you to engage in conversation – dogs and babies. Many seniors are amazed at the amount of attention they get while out walking their dogs or taking them out to dog parks. Even immobile seniors can enjoy these activities with their companion or home healthcare provider to accompany them along the way. Those daily chats and personal interactions stimulate the production of endorphins – “feel good hormones” – and that is a win-win for all.
Have you noticed a dampening of a senior loved one’s inner-light or connectedness to the world around them? Consider adopting a pet from one of the many Bay Area shelters. That once simple step can make a tremendous difference in the lives of both the pet and the owner.