About 7% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from clinical depression, though it is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Depression can lead to poorer health outcomes and contribute to an increased number of years an individual lives with disabilities. Companionship is one method to help prevent or fight symptoms of depression by warding off feelings of loneliness and isolation in older adults and offering structure and purpose to each day. And the companionship of a pet, particularly a dog, has proven to help improve the lives of older adults.
Below are 5 reasons seniors may benefit from the companionship of a pet:
- Boosts physical activity. Dogs need to be let out of the house and taken for walks daily, encouraging the senior to go outside and keep active. This helps fulfill the doctor-recommended 15-20 minutes of light exercise per day to ensure optimal wellbeing.
- Encourages social ties. Taking a dog on a walk around the neighborhood or nearby park can lend to a friendly interaction with neighbors or other dog-lovers. A short conversation could even lead to a new friendship!
- Reduces stress. Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, loneliness and depression. By playing catch with a dog or simply cuddling a pet and watching television, seniors are able to live in the present moment with their loving furry friend and relax.
- Creates interest. Seniors with a new dog or pet may want to read more about their breed, the best ways to care for them and activities they can do together. This interest inspires new learning, which is mentally stimulating and important at every age.
- Adds routine and purpose. Animals can give structure to a day; they need to be fed daily, groomed and taken out, providing a reason to get out of bed every morning. Having a purpose in life has been known to promote healthy longevity and is one of the main components of our Balanced Care Method™, a holistic approach to healthy aging.
For seniors with balance issues, a larger dog may be a better fit as smaller dogs can easily get underfoot and trip the owner. For those that travel more often, a smaller dog may be a better option. Remember that the senior must also be strong enough to control the dog either in the house or on walks and that older dogs who have already been trained may be easier to care for straight away.
In any case, an adoption agency may be the best option for helping to find your senior loved one a pet best-suited to their personality and abilities. Encourage happiness and healthy longevity by adopting a pet for a senior loved one!