Pets as Therapists: A Relationship That Promotes Healthy Aging

November 7, 2018

In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, Legacy Senior Living shares information on how pets improve older adults’ lives and why you should consider an older pet.

Sharing your life with friends and family who love you unconditionally is increasingly important as we grow older. For many, pets are family. They are a source of companionship and affection, especially for seniors.

Having a pet can give retired adults a sense of purpose after their kids are grown and gone.

In honor of National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, we explore the role pets can play in the lives of seniors and how adopting an older pet might help seniors.

The Benefits of Owning a Pet during Retirement

Older adults who are pet owners enjoy many health benefits. According to the American Heart Association, having an animal to love and care for helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Research also shows that seniors who have a pet exercise more and experience less depression.

Other benefits of having a furry companion include:

  • Socialization: Walking a dog is a great way to meet the neighbors and develop new friendships, which is an important part of aging well.
  • Purpose: Having a pet to care for helps seniors develop a healthy daily routine and a sense of purpose. This is especially beneficial for older adults who live alone.
  • Lower stress: The very acts of petting a cat or scratching a dog’s ear can help lower stress. For an older adult with a chronic health condition or someone who is grieving, pets can be very therapeutic.

If you are considering adopting a pet for yourself or a senior loved one, here’s what you should consider.

Adopting a Senior Pet

First, think about the senior’s budget and how much they can realistically spend on a pet each month. Some types of pets are more expensive to maintain. Whether it is grooming expenses for long-haired cats or veterinary bills for animals known to need extra care, be sure you understand the financial costs of any potential pet.

Also consider the animal’s temperament. For example, a high energy dog like a Jack Russell or a Boxer might be too much for an older adult.

Take the senior’s living situation into account as well. A cat might be better for an older adult who has limited outdoor space or doesn’t live near a dog park.

Our final suggestion is to consider adopting an older pet. Local shelters usually struggle to find homes for them even though they generally make great companions. Most are house-trained and calmer than a puppy or kitten.

Many local shelters have websites you can use to learn more about the animals currently up for adoption and the process to become a pet parent.

Life Enrichment at Legacy Senior Living

Helping older adults live their best quality of life is at the heart of everything we do at Legacy Senior Living communities. From life enrichment activities to wellness programs, we invite you to visit the Legacy community nearest you to learn more today.