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Pets play an important role in many families. They offer friendship, companionship, and unconditional love. For seniors, they can fill a void left behind after the departure of children or the death of a spouse.
Having a furry friend to talk to throughout the day and to snuggle up with on the couch in the evening can help combat loneliness. And research shows pets keep seniors healthier longer.
In honor of National Adopt an Older Pet Month, we explore how pets can help seniors live healthier lives.
A study conducted at the University of Missouri revealed that seniors who own dogs enjoy better health. This often translates to longer life. The stronger the bond is between the older adult and their four-legged friend, the greater the benefits.
Researchers say this is because people who feel a strong emotional attachment to their pet are more likely to take good care of them. An older adult will spend time walking their pet and socializing with neighbors, including children, who are attracted to the senior's pet.
Most seniors spend time petting and talking with their furry friend. And an older adult is also likely to engage in playful activities with their pet, such as tossing a ball or stick for them to fetch.
Each of these activities contributes to a healthier pet—and a healthier senior. Petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure. Walking helps with weight management and warding off disease. Lively activity also keeps an older adult from falling in to a sedentary lifestyle, which is known to be just as bad for seniors as smoking.
If you are helping a senior loved one find the perfect four-legged companion, here are a few things to consider.
The first thing to think about before adopting a pet is the senior’s budget. Some breeds of cats and dogs are known for having health conditions that will result in higher vet bills. Grooming expenses for long-haired pets can also take a bite out of an older adult’s budget. Make sure it is financially feasible for the senior to add a new member to the family.
Also think about the space a pet might require. For example, a small dog can make a few laps around the living room on a snowy day to work off excess energy. By contrast, a bigger dog will likely need to go for a walk outside even when the weather is frightful.
Finally, whether it is a dog or a cat, consider adopting an older pet. While puppies and kittens are fun to watch, their boundless energy might be too much for an older adult. Local shelters typically have a more difficult time finding homes for older animals, so start your search there.
Sunrise communities welcome pets. Your canine or feline companion can move in when you do! In fact, we believe in the power of paws so much that every Sunrise Senior Living community has a resident cat or dog for residents and families to enjoy. Call the community nearest you to learn more.