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Tuesday, 16 December 2014 09:00

Why are pets good for seniors?

There is enough research to fill a library on the benefits of pet ownership for the elderly.  Animals bring a requited joy and often healing to those who either struggle with, or through circumstance lack sufficient human interaction. 

1. Increased exercise
Pet owners are more likely to exercise than non-pet owners, and for the elderly this should be a vital part of their daily lives.  Being physically fit and increasing muscle strength has a number of benefits, such as fewer falls and better heart health. 
2. Happiness magnets
Pets can be not only a great source of entertainment, but can significantly lower feelings of loneliness and depression in seniors.  They are faithful companions who will offer the comfort of touch, and socialising.  They also create a role of responsibility through a need to be nurtured, which can give seniors a reason to get out of bed each day.
3. Lower stress levels
Studies have been done where participants were asked to complete a difficult task, the results clearly showed that those who did the task with a pet present showed significantly lower stress levels than those who did not.  Pets have been known to lower not only stress levels, but also anxiety and hopelessness which are so often prevalent in seniors who spend a lot of time alone.
Naturally there are also downsides to owning a pet, and before you rush off to adopt one for your ageing parent, make sure that they are the right “fit” for each other.  There would be a great danger in getting a playful puppy for someone who is too frail to take them for walks and play with them, but who also would be at risk of falling and hurting themselves.  Also, pets can be expensive, both in feeding and vets bills and neither cost can be put off! Lastly seniors, particularly those who live alone, can grow very attached to a pet, and a death, illness or disappearance can cause enormous amounts of stress and despair.  However, it has been proven that the right pet with the right owner definitely has benefits that far outweigh the risks.

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