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The Health Benefits of Pets for Seniors

Pets are loyal friends who tend to love us unconditionally. Their unwavering commitment to our happiness helps make even the worst days a little better. For older adults especially, pets offer a sense of purpose that many struggle to find after retiring. And the health benefits associated with having a pet are numerous.

Our residents across our communities have seen these benefits firsthand. Our communities are home to residents’ pets as well as community pets, many of whom are senior pets we've adopted from local animal shelters. One of those adopted companions is Peter Pan, the cat-in-residence at Sunrise of Crystal Lake in Illinois, who was adopted from a local organization called On Angels Wings’ Pet Rescue. Since then, he has been a tremendous presence in the community, welcoming residents and visitors alike with his sweet disposition and friendly face.
If you are considering a pet for yourself or an older adult in your family, it’s essential to find an animal that is a good match. It’s important to think about one’s lifestyle, budget, and environment.

Pets Nurture Our Well-Being

Here are some of the many reasons to make a pet part of your family:

  • Boost spirit: Health care professionals use the term pet therapy to describe the close bond that naturally occurs between people and their animals. Pets are always ready to listen without judgment. Having a meaningful and frank talk about life with a furry or feathered friend helps boost the spirit. For those older adults who are grieving the loss of a loved one, a pet offers companionship. This helps a pet parent avoid the health risks associated with loneliness and isolation, such as weight gain, depression, and diabetes.
  • Manage stress: Many people associate retirement with carefree living and no stress. But the reality can be quite different. Retirees have worries too—they are just different than younger people. Engaging in healthy stress-busting activities is essential for mental and physical well-being. Research shows that pets aid in reducing stress and can even lower blood pressure.
  • Promote physical fitness: Pets keep their family members active, especially dogs. Whether it’s a game of catch in the backyard or a stroll through a neighborhood park, dogs help their owners avoid becoming sedentary. Engaging in more physical activity improves core strength, stamina, and balance. Each of these are important in preventing falls, a leading cause of serious injury among seniors.

Before you rush to your local humane society to find a pet for yourself or your senior loved one, there are a few factors to consider.

What to Consider Before Adopting a Pet

Without a doubt, pets are a responsibility. They need care and attention, some more than others. Having a furry or feathered friend is also an expense. Food, grooming, medications, and veterinary care can all take a bite out of a senior’s budget. And there are a few more considerations beyond budget to keep in mind.

  • Space requirements: First, how much space does the pet you are considering need? Does the senior’s home have an outdoor area that could be fenced for a dog? If not, a cat or maybe even a bird might be a better choice. House cats can utilize a litter box which eliminates the need to go outside several times a day. Birds can be surprisingly good companions and don’t need a lot of space.
  • Pet disposition: Make sure you understand the animal’s disposition and care needs. If you have grandchildren or are planning a move to a senior living community, a dog or cat with an even temperament is best. Some dog breeds, such as a Maltese or a French Bulldog, are generally well-tempered. If you have any doubts, call your veterinarian’s office to ask for suggestions.

Sunrise Communities Welcome Pets

At Sunrise, we recognize the important role pets play in people’s lives. That’s why our communities are not just pet-friendly, many even have a dog or cat who calls the community home. We’ve even sponsored adoption events to help rescues from local shelters find new families. Call us at 888-434-4648 to learn about our pet policy and schedule a private tour!

Article By: Sunrise Senior Living

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