The evidence is in! According to a University of Missouri study, older adults who own dogs enjoy better health. And the stronger the bond between the senior and their dog, the greater the health benefits are.
That’s because people who feel closer to their dogs are more likely to spend more time petting them, walking them, and playing with them. These activities all contribute to lower blood pressure and fewer occurrences of chronic health conditions.
Dog-walking: Steps Toward Better Health
The study showed that walking a dog regularly can lead to a lower body mass index. This can positively contribute to overall health and help prevent conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Seniors in the study who walked their dog also reported fewer doctor visits.
Dog-walking also has social benefits. Seniors who walk dogs have an easy way to connect with other pet lovers who cross their path.
With this evidence in front of us, it makes sense to name canines as the “top dog” when it comes to the best pets for seniors. But cat lovers and enthusiasts of more exotic animals should take heart. Some evidence shows that other pets can also help reduce stress and lower the risk of depression—both important factors in senior health.
Additional Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Studies show that pet ownership—whether that pet is a dog, cat, bird or even an easy-to-care-for guinea pig or bunny—has a number of health benefits for seniors.
Seniors with pets have:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Reduced stress
- Less risk of depression or loneliness
- Better chance of long-term survival after a heart attack
Cat Companions Can Help Seniors Stay Active, Too
Cats require less care and attention than dogs, making them a purr-fect furry companion for a senior who may not be able to regularly care for and walk a dog.
Cats provide affection ---albeit on their terms! They also give senior owners a sense of responsibility and purpose. Seniors with cats can settle into a routine that includes feeding the cat, playing with the cat, and scooping the cat box.
These chores can help keep cat owners active without overdoing it.
Moods Soar When Older Adults Own Birds
Some veterinarians recommend birds as ideal pets for seniors. Birds provide the same therapeutic benefits of companionship, daily routine, and reduced stress as other animals, with less care required.
Enjoying Pets without the Responsibility of Ownership
Perhaps the best news of all. Seniors can reap the rewards of reduced stress and a more positive outlook to ward off depression without the responsibility of owning a pet.
Senior living communities and nursing homes who bring in dogs or small animals for the residents to enjoy during “pet therapy” sessions report positive outcomes.
Pet-friendly Senior Living
Many senior communities have taken steps to become more pet-friendly. For instance, some Five Star communities have opened dog parks where pets—and their owners—can make friends.
Find a place for you and your furry companion with help from a Five Star Senior Living expert.