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Senior Health & Wellness | September 16, 2016 | By Jonita Dixon

The Health Benefits of Pets For Seniors

The Health Benefits of Pets For SeniorsThe interactions between people and their pets can be truly amazing. The relationship with an animal can do more than just bring joy into someone’s life; in fact, studies have shown that owning and caring for a pet has a number of different health benefits for seniors. We want to share a number of different proven benefits that pets have for seniors.

Pet Benefit #1 – Better Function For Seniors

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society from 1999 revealed that seniors who have either a cat or dog are more functional than those seniors who do not have a pet. These seniors were better able to bathe and dress independently, prepare meals, take their necessary medication, kneel or stoop, bend, or climb stairs. Researchers suggested that seniors who have pets had more of a sense of responsibility and were instilled with more purpose. This is what often led to a higher level of well-being.

Pet Benefit #2 – Social Support

Any type of pet (but specially cats and dogs) can offer social support for seniors. Especially seniors who are otherwise somewhat isolated can benefit greatly from having a pet in their life. Moreover, a pet can lead to more social interaction with strangers. Perhaps taking a dog to a dog park or a cat to the vet can bring about some interesting conversations with people that you would otherwise not have spoken to.

Pet Benefit #3 – Heart Health

Another study revealed that having a pet can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and overall heart rate. A study published in Social Indicators Research in 2007 found that those seniors who kept pets were far less likely to visit the doctor. Similar findings were seen in a study done in China more recently.

Finding The Right Place To Live With Your Pet

It is a good idea to look for an independent living or assisted living facility where pets are welcome, possibly even encouraged. Alternatively, pet therapy dogs might be great for those seniors who cannot care for pets full-time – these pet therapy dogs are able to provide some attention and affection without the constant need for care. Especially those seniors living with depression or dementia have seen tremendous benefits in pet socialization.

Studies show that seniors who own and care for a cat or dog tend to be healthier, less prone to stress or depression and often function better physically than those who do not. That’s why pets are welcome, considered a wellness benefit and encouraged at Carlton Senior Living communities.