Seniors Adopting Seniors: The Benefits of Owning an Older Pet

By March 24, 2014Healthy Living

Thousands of independent seniors around the country currently suffer from depression, isolation and a lack of companionship. As older adults continue to age, friends and family members begin to pass away, leaving their loved ones to deal with a deep sense of loss. In addition, most independent seniors receive some sort of medical or physical care, but don’t have many opportunities to give affection. Adopting a pet often provides seniors an outlet, making up for the missing sense of companionship and affection.

It’s also important to realize the work and physical exertion that goes into taking care of a puppy. Many seniors can’t meet those demands, thanks to medical conditions or physical limitations, and that’s where adopting an older pet can really be beneficial. After pairing hundreds of older adults with older pets, organizations across the country quickly began to realize the potential of this successful concept. Programs began popping up across the country, seeking to place seniors with seniors.

The Bond Between Seniors and their Pets

Pets have one of the most impressive and effective ways of comforting humans. The therapy dogs you’ve seen visiting hospitals and nursing homes? They’re there for a reason. Animals have proven helpful in these settings time and time again. From slowing a senior’s heart rate to decreasing the amount of pain a patient feels, you don’t have to look very far to find evidence of just how much an animal’s companionship means.

To prove that point, a group of researchers in St. Louis conducted a scientific study to evaluate senior loneliness and interaction with therapy dogs. The seniors who participated in the study were living in a long-term care facility. After being introduced to weekly visits with a therapy dog, each senior reported feeling a marked reduction in loneliness and expressed a hope that the facility would actually increase the number of therapy dog visits from weekly to daily. The results of this study were published in the July issue of Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Why Caregivers Should Consider Adopting a Senior Pet

  • Older animals aren’t as energetic and boisterous
  • Senior pets are already house trained and recognize commands
  • Pets serve as a vital source of companionship, improving a senior’s mental and physical health
  • Animals open doors for interacting with other pet owners, increasing a senior’s social opportunities
  • Pets are proven antidotes to depression
  • The quiet calm of a senior’s home is the perfect environment for an older animal
  • Senior pets are gentler and bring a sense of peace to older adults

If your senior loved one would benefit from the quiet and gentle companionship of an older pet, organizations like PetFinder or PAWS are a great place to get started. Both seniors will thank you for it!

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