As winter draws near, the evenings get longer, and the nights get darker, the world can start to feel a little isolating. This is especially true for seniors who live alone.
Unfortunately, seniors are especially vulnerable to social isolation, which can have a detrimental effect on their health. A study by Age UK found that over 2 million seniors over 75 live alone, and over one million go for over a month without speaking to a family member, friend, or neighbour.
If you’re concerned that a senior loved one is experiencing loneliness, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. While you’re sure to spend as much time as you can visiting and making calls, you likely have your own life, career, and familial responsibilities to tend to.
With all that said, if your senior loved one is able in both body and mind, a pet might be a great form of companionship. And if your senior loved one requires care, remember that one of the many perks of living at home with support from a home healthcare provider, like Integracare Home Care, is that seniors can keep a treasured animal. With help from a caregiver, seniors can go on walks, feed and play with pets and attend vet visits.
Read on to discover how an animal, whether a dog, cat or otherwise, can be highly beneficial for seniors.
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Animals in the House Provide Company
Of course, pets can provide consistent companionship and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Having an extra body around the house to watch TV with and curl up with at night is a boon to anyone, regardless of age.
Animals Boost Social Interaction
If you have a dog or an adventure cat, you’ll know how common it is to stop and chat with fellow walkers on your morning stroll. Likewise, owning a housecat will likely ignite conversations at the grocery store or library, giving a senior a conversation topic everyone enjoys hearing about.
A Pet Encourages Physical Activity
Walking a dog or engaging in playtime with a pet can encourage physical activity, which is essential for a senior’s overall health and can help them maintain mobility and its related independence.
Owning an Animal Offers Routine and Structure
Pets thrive on routine. They like to know when dinner is coming when their walks are, when it’s treat time and, for some sleepy pets, when it’s time for bed. For a senior, caring for a pet can provide a sense of routine and purpose, which may help uphold cognitive abilities.
Pets Provide Emotional Support
Interacting with a pet can stimulate positive emotions and reduce stress and anxiety; it’s been found that petting an animal can release the chemicals associated with feelings of happiness: endorphins and dopamine, which can help to improve our moods.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to read between the lines here. While pets can benefit seniors, they may not be suitable for everyone.
The decision to introduce a senior rescue animal should not be taken lightly, both for your loved one’s sake and for the animals. Keep your senior loved one’s abilities in mind as you decide. If you do find that the responsibility of an animal is too much, why not research ‘therapet’ services in your area? A weekly drop-in from a verified therapy animal will surely make your loved one smile.