Pet ownership is an important element of American culture, as we bring them into our homes, care for them, and become attached to them. More than 90% of pet owners consider their pets as part of the family, according to a Psychology Today article. A report by the University of Michigan shows that 55% of older adults aged 50 – 80 are pet owners. For many seniors, pets can be a great source of companionship, provide health benefits, and encourage social interaction, but there are also challenges that seniors may encounter as pet owners.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
According to a 2013 study on pet owners and health outcomes, dog and cat owners were less likely than non-pet owners to experience congestive heart failure, obesity, and arthritis. Even fish owners may see a decrease in heart rates and blood pressure as they enjoy the soothing feeling they get from watching their fish gliding around through the water. Dog owners who take daily walks with their dogs can enjoy the additional benefit of having a workout buddy, and some of the best dog breeds for seniors are those that encourage this type of exercise and interaction.
The attachment seniors have to their pets can also have a positive effect on mental health. According to a report by Frontiers in Psychology, there is a direct correlation between pet ownership and a reduction of anxiety, stress, and depression in seniors.
A Harvard Health Letter article states that pet owners feel a sense of purpose when caring for their pets. Seniors often connect to their pets on an emotional level because of the unconditional love they provide. You can see this reflected in their behavior when you wake up in the morning or return home after being gone, and they are happy to see you.
According to a DePaul University study, being a pet owner can encourage social interaction, which can be a huge benefit for seniors who are retired or spend a lot of time home alone. Depending on the type of pet you have, you may need to make frequent trips to the veterinarian, groomer, pet store, or dog park. This gets you out of the house and around other people.
Pet ownership can be pricey, which can be a challenge for seniors who are on a fixed income. Depending on the type of pet you have, there could be costs for veterinarian visits, pet food, toys, and other accessories and equipment. The cost of owning a dog is estimated at around $1,400 - $4,300 per year, depending on the breed and age of the dog. Dog owners may also have fees for grooming, boarding, and training, so it’s important to keep these costs in mind when choosing a pet.
Arrangements for Vacations and Travel
According to an American Pet Products Association survey, 37% of pet owners travel with their pets. Seniors who take vacations or travel may need to board their pets or hire pet sitters to care for them while they are gone. Some dogs don’t do well with long trips or boarding. They miss you and can’t understand why you’re not with them. Cats can usually handle being alone for a day. Fish may seem like a low-maintenance pet, but they need to be fed every day.
While you don’t need to walk your goldfish, other types of pets, such as dogs, need daily exercise. This can be a great benefit for many pet owners who enjoy getting their exercise in this way, but for seniors with mobility issues, it can be a challenge to make sure your dog gets enough exercise. Some seniors may want to avoid getting energetic puppies or very large dogs with high activity levels. Some of the best dog breeds for seniors are those that are smaller and don’t require long walks every day. Cats, birds, fish, or reptiles may be better options for some seniors who have mobility limitations.
From dogs and cats to birds and hermit crabs and everything in between, a pet can be a wonderful addition to your family, and some pets make excellent companions. If you are a senior who is thinking about becoming a pet owner, there are many things to take into consideration as you make your decision, such as the cost of keeping a pet, how often you travel, and your activity level. Choose the pet that’s right for you, and you will enjoy the many benefits that come with pet ownership.
About the Author:
Joseph Jones has been writing senior care and aging-related articles for years. He got his start while writing for a personal blog before he was offered to work at California Mobility in 2018 as the Content Marketing Manager, creating highly informative guides and health awareness articles for aging adults.
He’s currently contributing to a variety of blogs in the senior health industry in hopes to spread information about taking care of seniors and what to expect in the aging process.