The Importance of Pet Companionship for Seniors

As people grow older, physical deterioration and loneliness can set it. Seniors can be depressed and feel alone. One way to help combat these negative and often inevitable aspects of life is by owning a dog or cat.

Dogs with the right personality and temperament can completely change the lives of the elderly in many ways. They provide companionship, responsibility, joy, and comfort. They are never unavailable for love or too busy for companionship. Small dogs specifically are a great fit for the elderly.

Below we will discuss the many benefits of adding a dog into your life as a senior. If you have a relative that is a senior or you are one yourself, keep reading to help determine if a dog is a good choice for your particular situation.

Physical Health Benefits

There are a wide number of health benefits that come along with owning a dog. Some physical benefits include lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduced heart rate. Having a dog will make you exercise. Studies have even found that elderly people who own pets will visit the doctor’s office 21% less often than a senior that does not own a dog.

Some more statistics from this study were discovered:

  • 95% of elderly who own animals talk to their pet and see them as a companion
  • 82% of elderly who own a pet say that they help them feel happy and reduce their sadness
  • 71% of elderly who own pets say their animal helps them feel better when they have physical pain.
  • 65% of elderly with pets say that petting their animal calms them down and helps them feel better
  • 57% of elderly with animals say they can confide in their pet

Whether it is getting out of your house to take your dog on a walk or heading to the pet store to get your dog some food, a dog will likely increase your exercise schedule tremendously. Dogs will help motivate you to stay active and healthy as you age. This is another huge benefit of owning a pet. The health benefits of exercise while you age are endless!

Mental Health Benefits

It is a proven fact that dogs reduce stress in their humans. One study shows that after three months of owning a dog, their caretakers had a significant drop in reactivity to stress and lowered blood pressure. The days that they spent entirely with their dogs were the days they had the lowest blood pressure.

Dogs also require you to get out of your house and have social interactions with others. You have to walk them, go to the vet, go to the groomers, and more. They require a lot, which is a good thing for a lonely senior. Getting out and interacting with other people helps reduce stress and depression as well as connect you to life and the outside world.

Along with that, several other social activities come along with being a dog parent. You can go on communal walks, hang out at the dog park, find other seniors with dogs to be friends with, and attend charity dog events. This adds excitement and social interaction to your life.

Responsibility

As you go through life, you may feel that your desire to be needed and useful fades. As your children grow into independent adults and your partners leave or pass away, you may feel as if you are no longer needed.

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility and they need you to survive. Having this type of responsibility again helps add meaning to your life and keeps you feeling important.

You have to look after a dog's health with regular check-ins, regular exercise, and vet visits. You also have to look after your dog's nutrition by purchasing the best dog food for your dog and feeding them on a set schedule. Researching what foods are best for them could also help with your own diet. With a dog looking to you for survival, you will be inclined to take care of both them and yourself better.

Routine

Having a pet in the house will force you to get into a routine. Some days you just don't feel like getting out of bed, which is understandable at old ages. With a dog, you are required to get up and feed it or let it out to use the bathroom.

Dogs motivate you and prompt you to stick to a schedule and add structure to your day. This will help you make the most out of your days and will also help ward off depression with a set schedule.

Protection

Dogs provide security. They are like a living security system in your home and can help you feel safe and secure when you are living alone. Thieves are often startled off by barking dogs, even if your watchdog weighs less than 20 pounds! Going on walks with a dog is safer too, making you more likely to get out of the house regularly.

How to Tell Which Pet Companion is Right For You

Below we list a few factors that might help you determine if owning a pet is right for you:

  1. Disabled - if you have a physical disability then you should consider owning a cat since they require less physical responsibility
  2. In need of therapy - consider getting a therapy dog or an assistance dog that is trained to help you feel better
  3. Set in your ways - bringing a dog or a cat in will allow you to adapt to their needs and create a schedule
  4. In need of activity - if you need the motivation to get out of bed, go on walks, leave your home, or exercise, then a dog will be best for you

How to Decide if a Pet is Right For You

Now that you have learned all about pet companionship for the elderly, you might feel that it seems right for you. However, there are a few questions that you should ask yourself before committing to a pet.

  1. Have you owned a pet in the past? If so, then owning another animal will be much easier for you. If you have not, then you might not know what to expect, and bringing in an animal can be a big shock.
  2. How old is the pet? Puppies and kittens can be harder for the elderly to care for because of their energy and needs.
  3. What breed? Research the breed of the animal before you get them and make sure their temperament will be a good match for your life.
  4. Financial burden? Pets are not cheap and you must be financially capable of paying for their needs.
  5. Is the pet healthy? Make sure the animal you are adopting is healthy and take them in for a thorough veterinary check-up before bringing them home to make sure they won't become more of a burden than a blessing for you.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, by getting a dog, cat, bunny, or other pet, you are investing in another life. You are helping an animal live a fulfilling life which, in turn, makes your life fulfilling too. If you or a loved one are alone and feeling depressed or unfulfilled, adding a small dog to your household could completely change your life and make your last years some of the best.