We all love our four-legged cuddly companions. From dogs to cats to rabbits to iguanas, pets add immeasurable value to all of our lives. But did you know they can be especially helpful as people age?
Seniors can benefit from the wellness advantages of pet ownership, which include increased physical activity, enhanced cardiovascular functioning and a reduced risk of obesity. Yet, as important as these assets are, pets offer so much more.
Seniors often feel lonely and somewhat isolated, so a loving pet can offset these negative emotions, bringing them much comfort and joy.
Here are some of the many reasons seniors need pets and how they can benefit from the animal relationship.
1. Promote increased physical activity
It is important for seniors to walk or engage in some type of physical activity regularly. Numerous studies have found that people of all ages who care for pets tend to be more active. Many people increase their activity levels specifically to meet the exercise needs of their pets.
2. Provide emotional support
When people age, they often feel unappreciated, disregarded or left behind. Pets serve as a support system, providing lavish amounts of acceptance and validation.
Pets can help an elderly person know that they still matter — a lot.
3. Boost cardiovascular health
People who care for pets often have lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and better heart health. Research published in The American Journal of Cardiology says that heart attack patients are four times less likely to die if they have a dog.
4. Offer companionship
As the elderly suffer the loss of a spouse or the loss of friends, they can experience a painful void. Having a pet can help fill this void — and help social interactions with other people. For instance, many seniors may prefer to walk around parks, as this is a practice that provides natural opportunities to greet and become acquainted with other pet owners.
5. Help with weight control
Because people who have pets tend to be more physically active, they are less likely to be obese. Studies show that dog walking in particular, is associated with a lower body mass index, which means a lower incidence of obesity. Participating in physical activity with a dog, cat or other pet is not only fun, but it also helps keep weight in check for both humans and pets.
6. Calm emotions
Sadly, some elderly people get very few hugs and seldom are blessed with the emotionally healing power of a human touch. Petting a dog or a cat provides the calming sensation of touch that is mutually enjoyable to both the pet owner and the pet. To touch and to be touched is essential for humans, and pets can serve to meet this need if the individual is alone.
Pets are profoundly therapeutic in every sense of the word, and thus they almost always enhance the overall well-being of their owners. As long as a senior is physically able to care for pets, they are certain to enrich his or her life considerably.
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