Your dad passed away several months ago… leaving your mom alone in the home they shared for more than 50 years. Your friends suggest getting her a pet –a furry friend that will keep her busy and reduce the risk of loneliness, but you worry a pet will be more work than it’s worth.
Benefits of Pets
“No matter the age, pets have a way of nurturing the mind, body and soul,” said Sierra Goetz, co-founder and operations manager at the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “This is especially true for older people who live alone. We’ve seen it with our clients – playing with a dog, petting a cat or even watching a bird can bring a lot of joy to a senior who might be feeling lonely or isolated.”
Other benefits of pet ownership include:
Improvedheart health – living with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Regular physical activity – walking, grooming and playing with a pet increases the frequency of exercise.
Routine – When they have a pet, seniors can’t lounge in bed or sit in a chair all day. They’ll need to establish a daily routine that keeps them moving and ensures their pet has everything it needs.
Increased sociability – walking a dog, taking it to the groomer or going to a dog park gets seniors out of the house and increases opportunities to socialize with neighbors and fellow dog lovers.
Decreased loneliness – pets love unconditionally and are always on duty. They provide the kind of companionship that gives isolated seniors a source for affection, conversation and activity.
Stress relief – spending time with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress.
Improved self-esteem – the effects of aging can be discouraging, but pets remind seniors that they are still capable of being loved and needed.
New interests – having a pet can expose seniors to new interests and activities, such as cleaning up the neighborhood park where they walk their dogs.
Sense of purpose – pets give seniors a reason to get up in the morning – eliminating feelings of worthlessness or helplessness.
Protection – even small dogs can help make seniors feel safe and secure in their homes.
Professional Caregivers Can Help
“While there are a lot of upsides to pet ownership, we know they are also a big responsibility – especially for seniors with mobility issues,” Goetz said. “That’s where we come in. From walking to feeding and grooming, an HCAN caregiver can help with the challenging pet chores, so seniors and their furry friends can age safely in place together for as long as possible.”