It should come as no surprise that pets are great for human health. While it was originally thought that the never-ending cuddles and unconditional love was only beneficial for emotional health, new studies have indicated that pets are also great for physical health.
However, there is one particular age group that is especially benefiting from the healing power of pets- seniors. Whether it’s helping to ease pain and sticking to a routine or improving cardiovascular health and easing loneliness, pets are the greatest healers for seniors.
Four reasons why pets are great for seniors
While retirement brings with it the satisfaction of never having to work again, sometimes the free time can be to a person’s detriment. That’s where pets come in. As pets become part of the family, they are able to combat all the negative things about retirement, turning the third act of a person’s life into a fun-loving time. In fact, when it comes to seniors, pets really do have healing powers.
1. Pets keep seniors physically healthy
New research conducted by the Mayo Clinic has found a link between owning a dog and having a healthy heart. In fact, this research suggests that dogs are a heart’s best friend. Researchers came to the conclusion after studying around 1800 people aged between 25 to 64 who had healthy hearts. Almost half of them owned a dog.
Pets are able to keep seniors physically healthy because they require regular exercise. Plus, it’s no secret that owning and caring for a pet is work in and of itself. The physical effort it takes to care for a dog is what is keeping seniors healthy all round.
2. Enjoy life more with a pet
Research conducted by the National Poll on Healthy Aging also suggests that owning a pet helps seniors enjoy life more. The poll surveyed 2,051 adults aged 50 to 80 years old and found that more than half reported owning a pet. 88% of those surveyed said their pets helped them enjoy life.
Part of the reason that seniors enjoy life more when they have pets is due to the fact that pets help them stick to a routine. Structuring the course of a day becomes very important when someone retires. This is due to the fact that depression becomes a risk factor when a person has no sense of purpose.
3. Having a pet helps maintain cognitive functions
Pets make people more sociable. Whether it’s the conversations that occur between a pet and their owner or the way that walking a pet down the street strikes up a conversation, pets are a great way to keep being social.
Whilst pets allowing their owners to be more sociable is positive in itself, the conversations also help seniors feel more connected with other people. Additionally, the social aspect of having a pet is beneficial for cognitive health, as remaining sociable keeps the brain active.
4. Loving a pet eases loneliness
With more than 40% of seniors experiencing loneliness on a regular basis, something needs to be done to improve the quality of life. That something is pets. The loving and caring nature of pets protects against feelings of loneliness while also providing emotional support. This is because caring for pets and being around them can produce a chemical chain reaction in the brain that simultaneously lowers stress hormones and increases the production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.
Pets are the best retirement accessory
Retirement is meant to be an exciting next chapter. Yet, sometimes this next chapter is met with feelings of loneliness and ill health. However, seniors don’t have to suffer through retirement when a pet can make all the difference.
From showering seniors with unconditional love and constant companionship to helping to keep their owners physically and mentally healthy, pets are the best retirement accessory. With recent surveys suggesting that pets can make all the difference to people in their golden years, it’s clear that pets really do have healing powers.