In good news for pet lovers, a recent study has uncovered a compelling connection between owning a pet and slowing cognitive decline in older adults.
The findings suggest that our four-legged companions might just be the key to keeping the mind sharp and agile as the years roll by.
The Pet Ownership, Living Alone, and Cognitive Decline Among Adults 50 Years and Older study sought to determine whether pet ownership is associated with cognitive decline in older adults, and how pet ownership can mitigate the association between living alone and the rate of cognitive decline.
Researchers regularly tested 7,945 participants aged 50 and above for verbal memory and verbal fluency and evaluated their overall verbal cognition by calculating a composite score.
The study found that pet ownership was associated with slower rates of decline in verbal memory and verbal fluency among individuals living alone, but not among those living with others.
Pet ownership offset the association between living alone and declining rates of verbal memory and verbal fluency.
“In this cohort study, pet ownership was associated with slower rates of decline in verbal memory and verbal fluency among older adults living alone, but not among those living with others, and pet ownership offset the associations between living alone and declining rates in verbal memory and verbal fluency,” researchers said.
“Further studies are needed to assess whether pet ownership slows the rate of cognitive decline in older adults living alone.”
It’s clear that owning a pet isn’t just a source of joy for over 60s, with previous studies finding that our four legged friends can enhance overall well-being and 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.