Anyone who’s owned a pet can speak to the countless joys a furry friend provides on a daily basis.: Whether it’s a cat, dog, or some other domesticated creature, having a pet around can give you purpose and boost your mood. And that is especially true of seniors who own pets.
The Pets for the Elderly Foundation (PFE) is a nonprofit that works to provide companionship for seniors through pet ownership—while saving rescue animals—that works in shelters all across the country, including the Animal Protective Foundation in Schenectady. PFE helps pay fees associated with adopting a companion dog or cat, including pre-adoption pet bills, in an effort to combat one of the most serious conditions plaguing seniors: loneliness. But PFE isn’t just doing this work on a hunch: Here are five proven ways that pets positively impact seniors’ health.
- Increased activity—This one is what a Harvard Medical School calls “have leash, will walk.” Dogs give seniors a reason to get outside or go for a walk, which they might not have done prior to owning a pet. While seniors may think of a walk as exercise for their pup, they’ll also be reaping the benefits of staying active.
- Increased healthy behavior—Seniors who have a pet to take care of tend to take better care of themselves, too. They have to show up each and every day for their companion, and in turn, for themselves.
- Increased interaction—Everyone knows dogs are a great talking point. Who doesn’t want to stop to pet a fur baby when you come across one walking on the street? Senior pet owners get out of the house more, which increases their ability to socialize with neighbors. Taking a dog to a dog park also gives senior pet owners an opportunity to chat with other pet owners about their furry friends.
- Reduced risk of heart disease—it’s true. Studies have shown that owning a pet can even reduce one’s risk of death due to heart disease. Others have shown dog owners have lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels than non-owners.
- Decreased stress—Seniors who own pets often exhibit less stress than seniors who don’t. That’s because being with a pet increases levels of serotonin, a hormone that stabilizes mood, feelings of well-being and happiness. Physical contact with a pet also helps to calm anxiety.
Still not convinced that owning a pet can be a game-changer in the life of a senior? Just ask one of the many residents of Kingsway’s independent living communities who share their home with a small dog or cat.
For more information on adopting a pet through the Pets for the Elderly Foundation, visit petsfortheelderly.org or call 480.625.4679.