Pet ownership can open up a whole new world for senior citizens. By adopting older pets, seniors get companionship without housebreaking or training. Life occurs in stages. And as we move from infancy to adulthood – and eventually into our senior years – our needs and wants change. For pet lovers, the joy and satisfaction that comes from owning a pet rarely weakens with the passing of years. The type of pet they desire, however, may be subject to change as living arrangements or health conditions evolve.
Today, a growing number of seniors are stepping forward to adopt older dogs and cats. Not interested in taking on the challenge of housebreaking and training a puppy or keeping a kitten out of mischief, seniors would rather have a pet that has an established personality and knows the rules about good behavior. These adoptions are a win for the senior, who benefits from the companionship of a pet. They are also a win for the pet, which gets to spend his or her years in a loving home, rather than a shelter.
Over time, the specific benefits of seniors adopting senior pets are becoming better known. Studies have shown that, aside from having a constant companion that is always there when you wake up or put the key in the door, seniors who adopt senior pets seem to: Have a buffer against loneliness
- Maintain a clear sense of purpose
- Derive a profound sense of satisfaction from living with an animal
- Be more likely to exercise
- Have lower blood pressure and a decreased likelihood of depression
In addition, pets appear to provide a sense of consistency in a rapidly changing world, and may reinforce feelings of self-sufficiency, dependability and optimism with their owners. Above all, pets offer their owners unconditional love and attention, regardless of how old the owner is, how grey his or her hair is, or how wealthy or poor the individual might be.
Pet ownership among seniors can also act as a therapeutic agent that allows individuals to escape stress and concentrate on something other than the challenges that face them in their daily lives. This release can have a considerable impact on overall health and well-being. A 1990 UCLA study showed that pet ownership could actually improve overall health and reduce the time a senior individual spends in a doctor’s office. A subsequent study by Alan Beck, Director of the Center of Animal-Human Bond at Purdue University indicated that pet ownership can act as a health enhancer for seniors by:
- Improving morale
- Encouraging independence
- Allowing them to handle stress better Pets can also act as “’social lubricants” for seniors, who may not be outgoing individuals by nature. Pet owners are often attracted to one another, and the topic of their pets frequently breaks the ice and starts discussions.
Adopting a senior pet can often open a new world for seniors. To find out how to adopt senior animals in our area, contact your local animal shelter.