Community Blog

The Ideal Senior Companion

By Sheryl Dreher, Care Coordinator of NorthWest Metro Denver

Many people own pets, but no population needs one more than senior citizens. Owning a pet has many benefits that can help seniors feel better about their life and improve their health. 

Pets are friends. They are loyal trustworthy companions that can gauge how you feel and what you are thinking. They can tell when you are happy or sad and will try to make you feel better. Pets provide companionship. When there is no one around, it’s more likely to feel lonely. With a pet, there is always something right by their side keeping them company.

Research studies show that Alzheimer’s patients experience less stress and anxiety when they have a dog or a cat. The ability to touch a pet provides nonverbal communications that helps them stay calm.

Although dogs provide the most benefits, cats make great companions too. If the senior the means to be able to get outside, a dog makes a great excuse for that senior to get outside to take them for a walk. This provides them with exercise and brings them outdoors for the fresh air. If a senior has limited mobility or lives in a place to small to accommodate a dog, cats make the perfect companion. They do not require walking and are always indoors with their owners.

Just remember to pick a pet that isn’t going to out grow its surroundings or one that is too big for your senior to handle. It is important to interact with an animal before taking them home in order to get a good feel for their personality. A good rule of thumb is to look for a dog who is friendly and capable of calming down within a few minutes.

It is important to interact with an animal before taking them home in order to get a good feel for their personality. A good rule of thumb is to look for a dog who is friendly and capable of calming down within a few seconds while in a comfortable setting. Look for older dogs to adopt; they are typically already house trained and do not require as much rigorous exercise. Puppies require a great deal of energy, time, attention and patience.

Check in your community for programs that place older rescue or shelter dogs with Seniors. These programs help the Senior not only pick the perfect pet for them, but also helps with some of the financial hardships that come with owning a pet like food assistance and veterinary costs.

There are also foster programs that allow volunteers to bring animals home temporarily and provide one-on-one attention that will help increase their chances of adoption. Most of the foster care programs are free to the foster home and pay for food, medicines and veterinary care. 

There is no doubt that a pet can provide unconditional love and play a part in improving a senior’s quality of life. Just be sure to carefully consider the commitment and see to the wellbeing of both senior and the animal.