Did you know that owning a pet can provide health benefits for seniors? Pets offer companionship and can help reduce stress levels. They also provide opportunities for exercise and socialization, which are important for maintaining good health as we age.
This article explores the top four health benefits of pet ownership for seniors so you can decide if a furry friend is right for you or a loved one.
Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety
The mental health needs of older adults are often overlooked, but they’re important to pay attention to. According to the World Health Organization, 20 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer from some form of mental or neurological disorder. Add potential life stressors to that and they may be more susceptible to developing anxiety and depression.
A research review published in 2019 found that pet ownership positively affects mental health. One reason may be that pets provide companionship and a sense of purpose. They can also help reduce stress by providing a source of unconditional love and affection.
Encourages Exercise and Socialization
As we age, it’s especially important to stay active, and pets can significantly motivate exercise. Walking is a low-impact cardio that’s perfect for seniors, and most dogs need at least one walk per day. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, socializing with other people is vital for mental health. Pets can provide socialization opportunities, whether through going to dog parks, attending obedience classes, or meeting new people on walks.
Loneliness in the United States is a growing problem, and with one-third of seniors saying they live alone, this can increase the risk of loneliness and isolation. Pets can help reduce these feelings by providing companionship and opportunities for socialization.
Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common problem among seniors, which can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. One study from BMC Public Health found that people who owned a dog walked longer than those who didn’t own a dog. This increased level of activity can lead to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, another study found that petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower blood pressure and heart rate by 10 percent.
Can Speed up Recovery from Illness
Research also has shown that having a pet can speed up the recovery process from illness. One study found that 70 percent of older adults who owned a pet said that helped them cope with physical and emotional problems. Pets also aided in taking their mind off their pain, making it easier for them to relax and heal.