Pets help us live a longer, healthier life and many of us simply feel better with a pet by our side. While our animal companions can be hard work at times, in the minds of the true pet lovers, the benefits our pets bring far outweigh any disadvantages. So just how do pets improve our health and well-being and can they continue to bring benefits as we age?
Most humans need and enjoy companionship. As we move through life, we value true friendships, the friends who are there for us through thick and thin, accepting us for who we are. Unfortunately we may have to say a permanent goodbye to many close friends or to our spouses, leaving us without valued humans companions. Retiring from the workplace can also leave some seniors feeling the absence of a meaningful role in life. Our pets, in their own special furry way, can help provide companionship.
Pets also provide the opportunity to nurture, that many humans need and crave. Even if they are not following us from room to room (though many do!), we can be sure of a warm nose nudging us every so often for a pat. Almost every pet owner talks to their pet (yes, even their goldfish!) and love how our pets listen to every word we say. Our cats, dogs and other furry, feathered or finned friends give us an excuse to use some happy, ‘baby talk’ and a reason to live.
Pets keep people physically health. Patting our pets results in lowered blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health. If people are unfortunate enough to suffer a heart attack, they are more likely to survive if they have a pet. Although we are unsure exactly why this should be the case, it is perhaps that pets encourage us to exercise, give us that all-important reason to live or perhaps they are simply a distraction from physical ailments. Whatever the reason, keep patting your pets!
As we age, it can be difficult to keep up with previous levels of physical activity. While you may not be able to jog for miles, a casual stroll every day with your dog may be all it takes to stay in good shape. Cats, of course, demand to be fed several times a day keeping the cat owner moving from their comfy armchairs!
People who own pets are less stressed than non-pet owners. Of course, if you are afraid of dogs or worrying about paying for your cat’s expensive veterinary treatment, you may be more, rather than less, stressed! Overall, however, our mental health is improved with a pet by our side and incidence of depression is lower in pet owners.
Senior pet owners, however, do not benefit psychologically from the presence of a pet as much as younger people do. Perhaps this is because pets can bring about worries of their own… who will look after them when we are gone? It may help to have a plan in place, to care for your pet should you pre-decease them or be incapable of looking after them.
Our pets may be our furry friends but they also help us maintain our relationships in our older years. We are considered friendlier when we live with a pet, the pet being the catalyst that enables people to strike up conversations and build trust in us. People enjoy talking about their pets.
One study found that older female pet owners had a better relationship with their husband than non-pet owners! Another study found that older pet owners considered themselves more nurturing, independent and optimistic than non-pet owners. All the more reason to have a pet in your life.
This is all aside from the love, happiness and joy pets can give you… I know I just love coming home from work to see my beautiful dogs and cats every day! They put a smile on my face and no matter how bad the day is, they will always cheer me up.
Do you have a pet? What is he/she and why do you love them? Tell us in the comments below…