Isolation is a blight on seniors’ happiness. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that one in every three seniors regularly experiences loneliness, and one in every four is socially isolated. Being deprived of companionship takes a toll on both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, seniors are more likely than any other age group to live alone and be socially isolated. For that reason, adopting pets is an excellent way for seniors lacking a live-in human to feel connected, loved, and grounded in reality.
A companion animal can be a great source of joy and offers many physical and mental health benefits that even a person can’t always supply. However, some seniors can also face challenges in taking care of an animal later in life. Here’s what seniors need to know about all the ways adopting a pet is good for their health. Alongside some of the challenges older pet owners face.
Pets Provide Many Benefits
A big reason most people adopt a pet is for companionship. Our pets are always there for us, providing love and comfort when we’re lonely or depressed. Interacting with animals lowers stress, decreases blood pressure, and boosts mood. Another great benefit is exercise. If you adopt a dog, chances are that your new pup will demand you get out for daily walks at the minimum. One study suggested that dog owners were less likely to have heart disease and more likely to love longer–perhaps due to the increased exercise and emotional support.
For many people, the sheer act of nurturing another creature can be extremely fulfilling. Pets also help reinforce a routine, providing structure and purpose to a senior’s life. Taking care of a pet makes us feel useful, needed, and like we have a tangible impact on the living beings around us. Rather than feeling disconnected from life, pets keep their people constantly engaged with the day-to-day and offer incredible rewards for diligent care. Of course, the amount of care a pet needs can be a limiting factor for some seniors.
Pet Care is a Big Job
Dogs and cats are some of the best options for seniors who want a companion animal. They’re soft, playful, and responsive, with a wide variety of personalities. But both of these fuzzy mammals require lots of love and care, and some seniors might struggle to provide all their pet needs. The best way to avoid taking on more than you can handle is to be strategic when picking out a pet in the first place. Above all, know what you’re getting into.
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they also require the most work. They need far more exercise than cats, which can be a barrier to some seniors. If you’re looking to get out of the house more and stick to your daily walking regimen, a dog can be a great partner.
For seniors with mobility issues who aren’t confident they’ll keep up on long walks, a cat is a great option. But despite the feline reputation for being lower maintenance, don’t be fooled: they’re still a big commitment. Activities such as kneeling to clean a litter box might be challenging for seniors with arthritis. Cats sleep a good part of the day, but many still require a lot of playtime and exercise while awake.
A hamster, gerbil, or other small critters can be a good compromise for seniors who want a low-maintenance pet. However, these animals still need their habitats to be regularly cleaned. No matter what kind of pet you have, it will always require a reasonable amount of time and effort.
Get Help With Your Beloved Pet
Social isolation can increase a senior’s risk of dementia, heart disease, and premature death. Pets can help counteract the effects of loneliness for seniors who don’t have as much human contact in their lives. They offer emotional support and physical exercise; they give us a chance to keep our brains sharp by experiencing new things. Unfortunately, some seniors might feel that they can’t adopt a pet because they’re worried they won’t be able to meet all its needs. Other seniors who already have pets can also struggle to take good care of them as they (and their animals) get older.
However, the challenges in taking care of an animal don’t have to eliminate the possibility of a furry companion. An in-home caregiver provides vital services for seniors, but they can also help seniors care for their pets. If there are aspects of pet care that you feel you’re no longer able to perform without difficulty, an in-home caregiver can help you and your pets get the most out of life. And of course, an in-home caregiver can be a great source of social contact and companionship for isolated seniors. From doing dishes to scooping litter, walking the dog, or just sitting down for a chat, the ways in which a caregiver can improve your life are nearly unlimited.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.