10 Scientific Based Facts How Pets Help Old People

Are you wondering how a pet can help seniors and older people? For my research for this website, I talk to many retirees and older people. I noticed that older people with pets seemed to be happier. I listed the benefits of having a pet in this article. 

1) Older People With Pets Are More Active

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to healthy aging. The CDC has even very specific advice when it comes to physical activity for older adults. They recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity for people with a general health condition. Pets help older adults easily reach the minimum requirements of the CDC for physical activity.

Owning a dog, for example, helps an older adult to get outside. Dogs need to go out several times a day. So even if you don’t feel like it, you still need to go for a walk. 

2) A Pet Helps With Healthy Aging

A pet not only helps older people to stay active. There are many more health-related benefits when having a pet. According to this research on Harvard Health Publishing, dog owners have a reduced risk of heart disease. 

Pet ownership is also related to stress reduction and lowering blood pressure. According to this research, people with their pets presents even recovered faster from stressful events. 

3) Older People With A Pet Are Less Lonely

A pet is always with you. If you ever had a pet before, you’ll understand that pets help to fight loneliness. Loneliness is a major factor among older people. Often because the social circle of people who you’re involved in decreases with aging. A pet helps to fight the feeling of loneliness and is even able to comfort older people. 

4) Pets Create Companionship For Older People

Like I mentioned in the previous part, loneliness is a major factor for older people. So, avoiding loneliness is important for healthy aging. Pets offer companionship for older people. Every pet owner understands that. The bond between a pet and its owner is unique. Dogs and cats are the most well-known examples of pets that can create a unique bond with their owners. 

5) Owning A Pet Lowers Risk Of Heart Disease

It’s well known that pets help you to stay active. This research on Harvard Health Publishing mentions that dog owners have a lower chance of heart disease. Probably because of the extra physical exercise you get when walking with a dog multiple times a day. The 12-year Swedish study included 3+ million adults between the age of 40 and 80 years. Researchers found that dog owners had a lower risk of heart disease, and dogs ease stress, loneliness, and depression. All these things are related that pets help older adults. 

6) Having A Pet Increases Social Interaction

Let’s stick with having a dog for this example. Dogs are great pets that can help older people, for example, with social interaction. Older people tend to spend most of their time at home. However, when having a dog, you need to go outside.

While walking your dog in the park, you probably meet many other dog owners and people who are just enjoying a walk in the park. When walking with a dog, it’s often easier to talk with other people, which increases social interaction. Small talk ‘what a cute dog,’ can be the start of a unique friendship you never thought would happen. 

It’s important to interact with other people, also when you age. Social interaction fights loneliness, which, as I mentioned earlier, is a major factor among older adults. 

7) A Pet Helps With Daily Routine For Older People

A daily routine is essential to have a sense of purpose and get up in the morning. It helps older people to stay active. With a daily routine, you often feel happier. Older people often struggle with their daily routines simply because they don’t have much to do. 

Retirees, in particular, find it troublesome to create a new routine in their first period of retirement. Retirement is a major life-changing event, and for many people, it’s hard to replace a busy work schedule with much leisure time. In my ebook Five Steps To Happiness In RetirementI share a step-by-step guide to create a daily routine. Creating a daily routine is one of the most important steps to find happiness in retirement. This ebook can be very helpful for you when struggling with creating routines and finding more happiness. You can learn more about the book here.

Taking care of a pet creates a daily routine. For example, when you have a dog. A dog needs to go out multiple times a day for a walk. But the dog also needs attention for playtime, food, washing it, and other things. It’s a daily task to take care of a dog, which creates a daily routine. 

8) Taking Care Of A Pet Gives Purpose To Older People

Having a purpose is essential to find happiness. Having a pet helps other people to find their (renewed) purpose. When your purpose is to take care of a pet, you have something to get up for in the morning. Your pet awaits to be taken care of. Many pets are known to give back in attention and appreciation. For example, when you have a dog, the dog will be happy to be with you if you take good care of him. 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, having a purpose in life is related to healthy aging and longevity. The research related to this article even mentions that older people with a purpose have better physical ability and strength.

So, when you’re struggling to find a purpose in your retirement, it might be time to get a pet! 

9) Owning A Pet Makes You Happy

Happiness is something we all pursue in life, and owning a pet can benefit more happiness. When we grow older, our social circle often declines. In turn, this often results in less action and social interaction in our lives, decreasing our feeling of happiness.

According to this article published on Psychology Today, different studies showed that pet owners and people with enough social interaction with friends are much happier than more isolated and lonely people. The research showed that this is related to the bond you create with your pet. 

This research available on Pubmed states that happiness and being aware of your happiness is related to longevity. Researchers found that higher levels of optimism are associated with a longer lifespan. 

10) Pets Help Older People To Have Fun

You can do all kinds of activities with your pet if your pet is big enough, of course. Doing fun activities with a fish is much more complicated than with a dog. A dog typically reacts to what you ask of him. For example, when you play a game of fetch, dogs love to run after a ball to catch it. However, most people will probably choose a dog or cat as spet. 

Doing fun activities with your pet is related to stress reduction and relaxation. According to this article on National Institutes of Health, pet interaction has many health benefits. For example, people suffering from stress-related symptoms can benefit highly from interacting with a dog or cat. 

11) Service Pets Can Help With Aging in Place

Service pets can help older adults with aging in place. Meaning that older adults can live longer independently when they can use a service pet to help with daily activities. Service pets are different than having a normal pet because they are trained differently.

Aging in place is important for many elderly. Because living longer independently in your own environment is related to healthy aging. It’s not only cheaper because you need less professional help, but more important elderly people will often experience more happiness when living longer in their own homes. How great when a service pet can help with this.

Most service pets are specific dog breeds, the best-known breed is a labrador. These dogs are friendly, responsible, and easier to train in a specific program how to take care of older adults for example.

There are many different service pets available. Sometimes service pets only help with daily tasks or to stick to a routine that can help to get more happiness. However, it’s also possible that a service pet has a larger role and is more therapeutic based to fight depression or other things. If you think you need a service pet it’s important to talk to your doctor and find professional help first.

How To Choose The Right Pet For An Older Adult?

So, owning a pet is helpful for healthy aging. We discussed that pets help seniors be more active, have more social interactions, and increase happiness. You probably are convinced that you need a pet, for example, a cat, as a senior , but still ask yourself how to choose the right pet that fits your lifestyle.. 

In the last part of this article, I’ll share some helpful tips to keep in mind when choosing a pet. 

Why Do You Want A Pet?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, why do you want a pet? What do you want to get out of it? If you want a pet because research says it’s good for your health, you might want to think again. 

You need to take care of the pet and really want to do this as well. Otherwise, owning a pet is getting more of a burden than something that is fun to deal with. When you’re not an animal lover, you probably don’t want to buy a pet.  

The Pet’s Activity Level

When you get a pet as a senior, take into consideration the activity level of a pet. For example, when you want to buy a dog, figure out how much time this particular breed needs to go outside. If the dog is very active, and you aren’t, you might want to find a breed that fits your lifestyle. 

Also, when you age, your activity level will probably decrease in the next few years. It’s still important to stay active, of course, and a pet can be very helpful with this. However, it might be more beneficial for you to find a dog that meets your activity level for the next years to come. 

Caring Costs

Pets cost you money. It’s just as simple as that. You need to take care of them, buy them food, go to a veterinarian. Most pet owners buy different toys for their pets so that they can play with them. It’s important to ask yourself if you can afford to own and taking care of a pet. Calculate before buying a pet. 

Many seniors love to get a dog as a pet. Some worry if they need to get a puppy or an older dog. Both can be a great fit, depending on your lifestyle. In my article, Why 70-Years-Old Should Get A PuppyI’ll discuss the benefits of getting a puppy for seniors. 

Kirsten Veldman

Since 2017, my husband and I have been location-independent retirees. With hundreds of articles written, I'm passionate about helping other retirees!

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