How seniors can improve their health and happiness with a furry friend

Apr 19, 2023
There are a myriad of other benefits that come with pet ownership. Source: Getty Images.

Keeping a pet isn’t merely a source of joy for over 60s, it can actually enhance their overall well-being with research suggesting that engaging with animals can facilitate a more positive ageing experience.

According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) the “scientifically documented benefits of the human-animal bond include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being.”

“Positive human-animal interaction appears to be related to changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, particularly dogs,” they explained.

According to previous research undertaken by Healthy Pets, simply walking a dog could help lower body mass index resulting in a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. They can also help people overcome loneliness, stay focused and provide routine to the day, something that many over-60s miss following retirement.

A separate study by the Alzheimer’s Association in Germany found pets can even help improve verbal communication function and attentiveness among those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Source: Getty Images.

Health Benefits

In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and improving the verbal function of those with Alzheimer’s, there are a myriad of other benefits that come with pet ownership. Some of which include:

1. Activity and Exercise

We have to walk our dogs regularly. Even around the block, or a visit to the dog park can provide gentle but worthwhile activity. Cats enjoy grooming and petting, birds and fish need their environment to be cleaned and need to be fed regularly. We all know that movement and exercise are beneficial for our well-being, but it can be a whole lot more fun when doing it for and with our beloved pets.

2. Routine

Our pets need to be looked after on a daily basis.  A reason to get out of bed on days we might not feel like getting up or just need a nudge in the right direction to get moving. Routine also works well with people with depression and can benefit those with dementia. A pet can reduce anxiety and give consistent unconditional love.

Pets don’t care how many times you tell them you love them or cuddle them.  The cuddle hormone oxytocin is released after only 15 minutes of time together. We all could do with more of that happy hormone!

3.  Decreased Stress

Many studies have shown that animals as companions decrease stress. Animals often seem to know best when you need them most.  Pets live in the moment and help you live in the present.

Touch has been shown to be beneficial in so many ways so patting your dog, stroking your cat, or taking care of your smaller pet friend lessens anxiety, as well as being an enjoyable part of your day. Having a pet after a bereavement can help reduce emotional distress and give much love when you need it most.

4. Companionship

Humans need relationships to help keep us in tip-top condition. When for one reason or another, the human variety cannot be there for us, our pets are there to fill the gap. They don’t complain as long as we feed, water and give them some love, which is more than can be said for their human counterparts on occasion!

Loneliness can be an issue in our older years. Pets can help us with this.  They need and love you unconditionally. That’s a great feeling.




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