Pet Ownership for Seniors
One of the most commonly cited issues for older adults is loneliness. Children grow up and move out of the home or to different cities, their friends and other loved ones either move or pass away, and it becomes more difficult to leave the house and participate in activities. For these reasons, pet ownership is a source of comfort and companionship that benefits seniors in countless ways.
Animal companions can help lower blood pressure, increase social interaction, prompt physical activity, and more. Pets are also rooted in the presence, living in the here and now with no concerns for what might happen tomorrow or further off in the future. Because the future can sometimes seem scary and uncertain to older people, this sense of being grounded in the present can rub off on them. Pets can also help with the effects of the symptoms of loneliness and depression, two common mental health issues that seniors face.
While the advantages of pet ownership are undeniable, there are of course some drawbacks to consider, and also one must take into account the capabilities of your loved one in their ability to care and provide for an animal. Before going out to adopt a cat or dog for your senior, have a thorough conversation and ask yourselves a number of questions to determine if it’s the right idea.
- Is your loved one set in their ways? If the senior in question is stubborn, resistant to change, or tied to their routine and their home being in order, then they might not be a good candidate. Pet ownership usually changes a person’s entire daily routine.
- Have they owned a pet before? While pet ownership is usually best for people who have owned one before, and therefore know what to expect and what it will take, this does not necessarily preclude first time owners. If your loved one is open to new and rewarding commitment, a first pet can be a great companion.
- Do they have any disabilities or functional limitations? Dogs are a great way to encourage physical activity, with daily walks, trips to the dog park, and games like fetch or tug of war, but for seniors with limited mobility, talking a dog out might be too much of a demand. A lower maintenance animal like a cat or a bird might be the best bet.
- Do they need a therapeutic or support animal? If a person is very infirm or disabled, a specially trained therapy dog might be best to help support their functioning while at home or on outings.
- What age of pet is best? A puppy or a kitten, while cute, might not be the best fit for a senior as they require a lot of extra care and attention over an adult pet.
- Are finances an issue? For many seniors living on fixed incomes, additions to their budget might not be possible. Pets like dogs and cats can add up to a thousand dollars per year in food, toys, grooming, vet bills, and other considerations. An animal like a fish would clock in at a much lower cost each year.