Aging Loved Ones & Pets
As adults get older, willingness to socialize and be active may drastically decrease.
It is common for elderly adults to feel as though they may not have a purpose to get up and get going every day, as they likely have retired from their work and may not have close friends and family nearby. During this time, the feelings of loneliness and sadness can take over and cause the elderly to feel hopeless. Although there may not a cure for these feelings during a time of uncertainty and change, owning a pet can certainly help combat feelings of isolation and sadness.
Benefits and Downfalls of Seniors Owning Pets
Owning a pet can bring plenty of health benefits to the elderly individual, along with a few downfalls. It is important to note that adopting any sort of pet can be expensive. Not only will the new pet require an adoption fee, but they will need to remain healthy by visiting the vet regularly. Keeping a pet healthy and happy not only costs money but takes time, energy and patience. If a senior does not have the time or energy to commit to taking care of a pet, adopting a pet will not be beneficial to them and may cause more harm than good.
However, if an elderly adult has the financial means, energy and emotional capacity to take care of an animal, adopting a pet may be the companionship they’ve been looking for! There are several benefits of pet ownership for the elderly. These benefits include the following:
- The feeling of companionship and having a bond will always be available to them. They will be able to spend time with their pet while they relax at home and will always feel that they have someone to keep them company. Although they are not humans, animals can be just as comforting during times of need.
- A sense of purpose will be instilled in the senior, which may be an emotion that may have been absent previously. If an elderly adult has been feeling lost and hopeless, owning a pet can bring them a sense of purpose and responsibility that will bring joy to their lives. Suddenly, they may feel more energized waking up in the morning knowing that there is a life that is depending on them.
- Able bodied seniors will get more exercise, especially if they own a dog. Whether they choose to adopt a dog, cat or another animal, it is work keeping up with a new pet! They may get more physical activity naturally by running around with their new pet!
- Anxiety can be diminished with he solitude and comfort of an animal around! That bond can serve as a way to calm down and be in their “happy place” for the senior.
If an elderly individual has a specific need, such as impaired vision or severe anxiety, a service dog may be a viable choice for them. If a senior is interested in learning more about service dogs and if they will benefit them in the long run, his or her medical professional team will be able to evaluate their needs.
What Type of Pet Fits a Senior Lifestyle?
Seniors range in mobility, activity levels and attitudes, which will make their needs and desires different from person to person. When choosing the right pet, seniors and their families must consider their level of daily activity, their willingness to become more active and the amount of attention they are willing to give their pet. It is also important that before adopting a pet, elderly adults make sure that they are not allergic to said animal. This will prevent adopting and rehoming animals due to inability to make the situation work. Animals that can be great pets for seniors include:
- Cats, for those seniors that want a companion but don’t want to have to walk their new friend every day. Cats can be a warm body to snuggle with, but do not require daily walks or a high level of attention. Cats may be best for the type of senior that is independent but looking for an extra companion at home.
- Dogs are perfect for the type of senior that wants to have a companion that relies on them. Dogs rely on humans to take them out for daily walks, feed them and to keep them active. Dogs require a lot of attention and will be harder to take care of, but they are the perfect companion for seniors that are looking for a purpose and companion.
- Fish could be perfect for the type of senior that wants something to take care of but doesn’t really want to have the fur or cuddle aspect of things! If the senior is looking for a purpose, but doesn’t want a huge commitment, a fish may be the right pet for them! A fish requires food daily, but they do not need to go for walks and do not require any physical touch. A fish may be the perfect pet to look at from afar!
Dogs, cats and fish are not the only options for seniors that may want to adopt a pet. There are other options such as bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters or reptiles. It is important for the senior to do research on the level of care that the animal requires and to match it directly to their abilities and willingness to care for said animal. With the right amount of love and care, pets can bring happiness and companionship into an elderly individuals’ home. Happy pet hunting!