Community Blog

Pet Benefits for Seniors: Myth or Truth?

By Ketan Patel

You may have heard amazing claims about pet ownership for seniors, from companionship to health benefits and even psychological advantages. The claims are so numerous and wide-ranging that you might wonder if they are true. It turns out that ongoing studies indicate pets can actually provide multiple benefits to seniors. If you are considering pet ownership for your aging loved ones, determine whether they have the physical ability to care for the animal. An in-home caregiver may be able to help.

 

Here are some of the remarkable benefits of pet ownership for seniors:

 

Pets Promote Socializing and Exercise

 

Seniors often become lonely as they deal with the death of a spouse and the loss of friends. They may have moved away from a familiar community to be closer to family caretakers. Pets can provide companionship to improve their quality of life. Dogs give seniors a reason to get out of the house and take a walk each day. Seniors who put dog walking into their schedule set up a regular exercise routine that can improve their health while providing the opportunity to socialize with neighbors. An NIH (National Institutes of Health) study showed that seniors ages 71-82 had greater mobility and walked faster and longer than seniors without pets.

 

Pets Reduce Stress

 

Depression is a common problem for aging seniors, and preliminary studies show that pets can help improve their mood. Research conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests that when people interact with dogs, hormonal changes occur that help them cope with anxiety. Stroking a pet can release the “feel good” hormones of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol that can lead to harmful food cravings.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), owning a pet can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Studies show that this is especially true for high-risk or hypertensive patients, a group that often includes seniors. Researchers at the University of New York at Buffalo found that people experienced lower stress levels when their pets were nearby, Stress levels were even lower than when family or friends were around.

Pets are Heart Healthy

Cats have been shown to reduce a person’s risk of a heart attack by 30 percent, and they provide a whopping 40 percent reduction of the chance of a stroke. Dogs help people recover from heart attacks, and people who have suffered heart attacks are more likely to be alive a year later if they own a dog.

The CDC notes that pets can lower cholesterol, especially for men. Studies show that heart healthy effects of pet ownership include lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to people who are not pet owners. The jury is out on whether this benefit is due to the healthier lifestyle of pet owners, or simply the presence of a pet in their lives.

Pets Reduce Pain Levels

 

It seems that pets can ease pain in aging seniors who often suffer from the effects of arthritis and other painful ailments. Also, a Loyola University study shows that people who are recovering from surgery may need less pain medication when using pet therapy. This might be due to the effect pets have on reducing anxiety, which in turn can reduce pain.

 

Hiring a Caregiver

Home Helpers of South Shore is owned and operated by a compassionate health professional with a strong understanding of the needs of aging seniors. Contact Home Helpers to help your aging loved one.

Please fill out the form on the left and we will get in touch with you about setting up in-home health care, or call us at 781-585-1244 to determine the plan that is right for you.

We serve the following communities:

Abington , Braintree , Brockton , Buzzards Bay , Carver , Cohasset, Dighton , Duxbury , Falmouth , Halifax , Hanson , Hingham , Holbrook , Hull , Humarock , Kingston , Lakeville , Marshfield , Mashpee , Middleboro , Norwell , Pembroke , Plymouth , Plympton , Quincy , Randolph , Rockland , Sandwich , Scituate , Taunton , Wareham , Weymouth , Whitman