Meet my roommate.
Who can resist a face like the one above? Pets can do so much to lift the spirit. And there’s obvious comfort in a good snuggle with a canine companion or a feline friend. As we age, there’s even more value in pet companionship, especially when it comes to fighting loneliness and social isolation for seniors.
Studies on pets for seniors have shown pet ownership—even fish and birds—helps fight loneliness, a normal part of the aging process. But having a pet by your side can also relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increase fitness and boost overall happiness and well-being. Pets also provide social support, which is an important factor in helping seniors stick to healthy habits.
Here are 6 Key Benefits that illustrate the positive effects pets have on fighting elderly loneliness, as well as improving overall mental and emotional well-being for seniors.
- Reducing Loneliness. Here are the numbers. With 40% of seniors reporting they experience loneliness regularly, a companion animal or pet can be a great comfort. In fact, in a study of pet owners ages 50-80, 86% responded that their pets made them feel loved and enjoy life more.
- Connecting Emotionally. Pets provide unconditional love for seniors. You can see this reflected in their behavior when they wake you up in the morning with their sloppy kisses or when you return home after being gone, and they’re so happy to see you.
- Boosting Confidence. A Harvard Health Letter article states that pet owners feel a sense of purpose when caring for their pets. Like a true companion, friend and roommate, they need you for their existence as much as you need them. It’s a good feeling to be needed. And a study from Miami University found that pet owners have higher self-esteem than non-pet owners.
- Minimizing Stress. Often, the more time a person has to oneself, the more opportunity there is for undue worry and stress. Having pets nearby has been shown to significantly reduce stress. In fact, just thinking about a pet has been shown to have a positive effect on stress. Even fish owners may see a decrease in heart rates and blood pressure as they enjoy the soothing feeling they get from watching their fish glide around through the water.
- Promoting Overall Good Health. Diverting just a bit from combatting loneliness, pet owners are the recipients of many other health benefits. Dog owners who take daily walks with their dogs can enjoy the additional benefit of having a great workout buddy—AND improving their mobility at the same time. The American Heart Association found that pet-owning seniors have lower blood pressure and experience smaller fluctuations in heart rate than non-pet owners. For seniors who have experienced a heart attack, owning a dog or cat has been shown to improve recovery rates; and those recovering from surgery need significantly less medication for pain than those not using pet therapy during recovery.
- Increasing Socialization. Pets, especially dogs, are excellent facilitators of increased social interaction. Because you’re a pet owner, you can’t help but meet new friends—other pet owners, and non-pet-owners alike. Think about how others are drawn to you at the dog park or along the walking trail as you walk by with your pet. They can’t help but stop and greet you and your friend. Consider the new people you meet during your trips to the veterinarian, groomer or pet store—along with other pet-owners who are your neighbors.
A Pet-Friendly Senior Living Community
Human beings are truly “social animals.” We naturally seek companionship as part of our well-being, and pets can certainly help fill this void in the life of a senior. So can the pet-friendly, active, community-oriented lifestyle of a senior living community like The Carrington at Lincolnwood—even if you don’t have a pet.
The staff at The Carrington make a concerted effort through resident-centered activities, groups and clubs to continually expand the social networks of all its residents. Through these valuable opportunities for engagement, coupled with personal support, socialization flourishes and isolation and loneliness are diminished. Visit The Carrington’s Facebook page to read more about the positive social networks that have formed within our senior living community and how residents truly bond together. Schedule an in-person tour to visit us today—and bring your furry friend!