April 24, 2018

The Benefits of Pets for Seniors

There’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch with your favorite canine companion or hearing the gentle purring of a content cat. It’s no wonder that nearly 60 percent of Canadian households own some kind of pet. And research shows they are healthier for it!

Numerous studies support that owning a pet can decrease stress, anxiety and depression, as well as lower your blood pressure, decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke. Further research shows that owning a pet may even improve your immunity, making you less prone to common illnesses such as the flu.

For seniors in particular, the benefits of owning a pet don’t stop there:

  1. Pets make the perfect companion. One of the best things about owning a pet is their ability to provide unconditional love. For seniors living alone, having a pet can help ward off feelings of social isolation and the depression that often accompanies it.
  2. Owing a pet makes you naturally more active. There are a lot of daily responsibilities that come with owning a pet, all of which help ensure you stay active. In fact, studies show that seniors that own dogs walk an average of 2.2 hours more per week than seniors who don’t. More of a cat person? Even just the daily responsibilities of feeding your cat, scooping the litter box and taking time to play can ensure you stay active.
  3. Pets can provide emotional support. Growing older can come with its own set of stressors. Research shows that just touching a pet can create a calming sensation, making them a great source of emotional support when you need it the most.
  4. Having a pet helps you establish a routine. The tasks of taking care of a pet are repetitive in nature and can put seniors into a daily routine, which studies show may slow the aging process.
  5. Owning a pet gives you an added sense of responsibility. After retirement, many seniors struggle to find something that gives them the same sense of usefulness their careers and family responsibilities once gave them. Having a pet can help provide a new sense of responsibility by giving you something to take care of, improving self-confidence and self-esteem.

Pets and Seniors: What to Consider

Before you run to your local animal shelter to adopt your new furry best friend, make sure you’re up for the task of taking care of a pet. It’s important to consider your current activity level, experience owning pets, health issues, any potential allergies and your place of residence.

Be sure to look for a pet that fits your lifestyle. Puppies and kittens may be cute, but they’re also very active and require more attention and exercise than an older dog or cat. Additionally, cats tend to be more self-sufficient than a dog who would require multiple walks a day.

Pet Therapy Benefits

If owning a pet feels like more than you or your loved one can take on, pet therapy can still provide many benefits, particularly for those with depression, a chronic illness or ongoing disabilities. In fact, studies show spending just fifteen minutes with an animal can promote serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormones responsible for decreasing feelings of stress and boosting your mood.

Pet-Friendly Living at Symphony Senior Living

Owning a pet can bring a whole host of benefits for seniors. At Symphony, we recognize the positive physical, emotional and mental benefits having a pet can provide, which is why all of our communities are pet-friendly.

And because being around pets is so important, each of our communities adopt a dog or cat from a local animal shelter so that every resident can experience the benefits of being around a friendly pet.  Contact us today to learn more about our communities for seniors, including our pet-friendly living options.

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