Pets are wonderful companions, but did you know they come with surprising benefits for a senior’s health? From cardiovascular health, to mental and emotional well-being; pets can have a dramatic impact on a senior’s quality of life. Pets can help seniors to enjoy life more fully; feel loved and even help reduce stress. Thus all-in-all helping a senior maintain a happy, balanced lifestyle.
Pets can be incredibly beneficial for physical health too. Many studies have found strong correlations between animal interaction and an improvement in physical health, including healthier blood pressure and improved mobility.
Here are a few ways pets can help improve a senior’s physical health:
- Lower blood pressure –– Studies have found that pet-owning seniors have lower blood pressure and experience smaller fluctuations in heart rate than non-pet owners.
- Improved mobility –– Regularly walking a dog is associated with better body condition; fewer doctor visits and a frequent and healthy exercise routine.
- Heart attack recovery –– For seniors who have experienced a heart attack, owning a dog or cat has been shown to improve recovery rates.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
For seniors living alone, depression is a common result of the social isolation they may experience. Having a pet helps alleviate this loneliness and offers significant mental and emotional support.
Here are some other ways pets help improve mental and emotional well-being:
- Less stress –– Having a pet nearby has been shown to significantly reduce stress levels.
- Social interaction –– Pets, especially dogs, have been found to be excellent facilitators for social interaction, new friendships and conversations with others outside the home.
A worry for many senior pet owners is outliving your pet. Here are some tips and advice:
- Rehoming- Sometimes pets can outlive their senior owners, especially if adopted as a puppy or kitten. Additionally, a hospitalization or living transition for the senior could leave a pet needing a new home. If you find yourself needing to find a new home for a senior’s pet, it’s important to take appropriate steps to keep the pet safe and comfortable during the transition.
Before rehoming the pet: Make sure there are no pre-established contingency plans for the pet in a will. Ask trusted friends and family if they would be willing to adopt the pet. Contact the local SPCA or Vet to see if they have on record if the pet is to be adopted by someone specific.
- Pet Estate Planning: If end-of-life planning is on a senior’s list of to-dos, it can be helpful to include any pets in the planning process. Pet estate planning involves adding family pets to a will to ensure they continue to receive care from a trusted source after the death of the owner.
Here are the basic steps: Appoint a trusted caretaker and a backup. Write down expectations for the pet’s care. Write down information about the pet’s care, including health information. Establish a fund to cover expenses for the pet’s continued care. Create a trust fund for the pet with a trustee to administer expenses. Contact your local Vet to inform them of the plan for the continued care of the pet (this is especially important for the pet’s medical wellbeing).