Fido's Friendship is a Health Benefit

Julia Little  |  August 17, 2011

First, put things in perspective. Americans everywhere love their four-legged companions, so it may be best to review any possible accommodations that communities can provide a canine or cat. Sunrise communities welcome residents to bring their pets with them. Additionally, each community has a cat and dog to provide residents with companionship.

Research shows that pets are a source of valuable health benefits for seniors - both mentally and physically. In fact, one study conducted at Michigan State University found that dog walkers were 34 percent more likely to get the federally recommended levels of exercise (150 minutes) each week.

"Walking is the most accessible form of physical activity available to people," said researcher Mathew Reeves. "What we wanted to know was if dog owners who walked their dogs were getting more physical activity or if the dog-walking was simply a substitute for other forms of activity."

Going for a stroll with Fido can help seniors get outside and meet new people, too. And when they're home, they will never feel at a loss for a willing ear or a friendly gesture. Walking the dog can be an easy way to start exercising a little more and have fun doing it. Older adults with a dog are never short a walking partner.

Those who are less mobile may benefit from owning a cat, instead, because cats are more indoor animals that still provide valuable companionship. If a senior takes the time to play with a feline for just 20 to 30 minutes a day, the experience will make both parties happier.

Overall, it may be best to find a way to keep the pet in a senior's life. Families can always volunteer to walk a dog if a loved one is unable and help with the financial costs of veterinarian visits and food.

If older adults are thinking of getting a pet, FloridaToday.com recommends finding animals that are well-trained, especially ones that can respond to commands. Likewise, find an appropriate match.

Carolyn Snyder, herself a dog-loving senior, shared her tips, suggesting that older adults get smaller canines.

"It would be easier to handle and less likely to cause an injury than a larger dog," she told the news source. 

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