For elderly pet owners who live alone or in group facilities, pets can have many benefits. Research has shown many times over that seniors who have pets are much healthier than those who do not. Pets can help reduce doctor visits, lower blood pressure, make seniors more emotionally stable, and reduce the risk of heart disease. They also help fight depression, increase social interaction and physical ability, and help them learn.
Pets provide something important but intangible-dogs and other pets live in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow and are generally happy and have no worries. Seniors have many things to worry about, and having an animal that is happy with the here and now can have a very positive impact.
If your loved one does not already have a pet, and you are interested in getting one, here are some things to consider to help you pick the right pet for the right owner:
- Are you set in your ways? If you don’t like change, you may not be a good candidate.
- Have you have a pet before? Most research suggests that it’s best if the senior is an experienced owner.
- Do you have disabilities? Dogs can be wonderful companions who encourage a senior with no major physical limitations to walk and interact with others. For those with more challenges, cats (who often need less care than dogs), a small paper trained dog, or a bird would be more preferable.
- Do you need a therapy pet? If the person is very infirm or impaired, they may qualify to receive an assistance or therapy dog trained to help them function better.
- Is the pet the right age? A puppy or kitten may not be the best choice for elderly owners because of the care the require. They have to be trained, and may end up outliving their owners. It is also important that the pet is not too old since it may start to require more care than it’s owner can provide.
- Does the pet have a good temperament? Many older people feel that they would do better with a small terrier than a large Great Pyrenees, but size is not the only thing to consider. The terrier may be small, but they are very energetic, while the large dog is more laid back.
- Where to find the pet? Breeders can be a good source, but they can also be costly. A good option to consider is a shelter pet. They cost less, and both the senior and the pet benefit. Some shelters even offer seniors pet adoptions at a reduced cost, and the employees can help make sure it is a good match.
- Who will help take care of the pet? Since seniors can have health problems and occasionally require hospital stays, it is important to appoint a family member or close friend who is willing to help care for the pet when its owner cannot.
Pets can be a great companion for seniors, research has proven that. Talk to your loved one today to find out if a pet is the right choice for them!