The Importance of Pets as We Age

There are a lot of changes that occur as we get older. Family members and friends move, people pass away or lose touch, and your kids move out of the house for the first time. While being able to enjoy things on your own and remaining independent is important, these departures can lead to increased feelings of loneliness. Over time, they can make it difficult to participate in daily activities.

Loneliness is often a huge problem for seniors. It’s been linked to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and an increased mortality risk.

However, pets can offer many benefits as we age. They can provide friendship and fight back against the effects of loneliness, helping to reduce stress and improve social interaction. They’re also great for boosting physical activity and reducing your risk of developing certain illnesses.

Whether you’ve had pets in the past or not, now could be a perfect time to consider bringing a furry friend into your home. Let’s dig a little deeper into why pets are important as we age, and the benefits you can experience from bringing one into your life.

Pets Encourage Physical Activity

It’s important for everyone to stay physically active, but it’s especially essential for seniors. Some of the most significant benefits of exercising regularly as you get older include:

  •      Stronger muscles;
  •      Improved balance;
  •      Reduced risk of disease;
  •      Lower blood pressure.

Staying physically active can also help to improve your mental health and slow the effects of cognitive decline. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find the motivation to exercise. A pet can help with that — especially one that likes to be active.

Whether it’s a daily walk, spending time at a local park, or playing with a ball in the backyard, you’ll be excited to get outside and spend time with your furry friend. You might not even realize you’re getting in a workout, but you’ll definitely see the benefits.

Regular exercise for seniors can help to combat issues like GERD and can even help with heartburn — two things that tend to increase with age due to weakening muscles. Having a pet can be the first step in making healthy lifestyle changes that boost your longevity and keep you feeling fit and energetic.

They Boost Mental Health

Pets don’t just encourage you to stay physically active. They can do wonders for your mental health, too. They reduce stress by providing comfort and a sense of calm. They elevate the serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain. Most importantly for seniors, pets offer a sense of purpose and can boost your self-esteem. If you’ve been struggling to find meaning in your life as you get older, a pet can help.

It’s no secret that as we age, the risk of cognitive decline goes up. That risk often increases with isolation. Not only will a pet keep you company, but they’ll offer the opportunity to keep your mind sharp every day through decision-making and meeting their needs.

Even if you don’t think you’re ready to adopt a pet of your own, consider fostering, spending time at a dog park, or volunteering at a local animal shelter to experience some of these benefits.

Choosing the Right Pet

We would love to say that you should go to your local animal shelter right now and bring home a new “furever” friend. However, it’s always important to do your research. You might have a different lifestyle today than you did 20 years ago, and you need a pet that fits that lifestyle.

Ask yourself some of the following questions as you consider the type of animal you want to bring into your home:

  •      Have you owned a pet before?
  •      Do you have any functional limitations?
  •      What age would be best for you?
  •      What kind of temperament would fit your lifestyle?
  •      Do you have the financial means to care for a pet?

It’s important to feel confident as you make the decision to bring a pet home. The last thing you want is to second-guess yourself when it’s too late.

Cats are typically popular among older individuals. They tend to be less work and can be great cuddly companions. However, some people argue that cats are standoffish and temperamental. It really depends on the personality of the cat you choose. However, that’s hard to predict unless you adopt an older cat.

Dogs can be a bit more work, but they’ll encourage you to stay active, and studies have shown that simply being around a dog can reduce your stress and improve your heart health. 

You can also consider a nontraditional pet, like a rabbit or bird, but be aware that their cages often require a lot of cleaning and regular upkeep. Consider what would meet your needs and be best for your lifestyle before you make your final decision.

If you’ve been on the fence about a pet, hopefully you have some insight now into how much they can add to your life. Pets are extremely important and beneficial as we age, and you could enjoy those benefits while scratching behind the ears of your new furry companion for years to come.


Written By

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, aging, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

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