Benefits of Pets for Older Adults

Senior citizen with pet.

As we get older, our lives and daily routines can significantly change. After retirement, many older adults feel a sense of isolation and lack of purpose. Important people in our lives may no longer be there, and our ability to participate in activities at the same intensity will change. Many may find themselves with a lot of free time and a desire to do something with that time. Adopting a pet can help older adults achieve a sense of purpose and battle feelings of isolation as well as help to improve their overall health.

Mental Health Benefits

Many older adults experience depression or anxiety related to feelings of loneliness. A pet companion can help reduce, or even eliminate these feelings. Not only does a pet provide unconditional love to their owner, but they also provide an indirect, positive effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters. Studies have shown that petting a cat or dog increases the levels of the neurotransmitter, oxytocin, which creates a sense of calm and comfort. Oxytocin can work to block the stress hormone cortisol, which decreases overall stress levels. Interaction with pets also increases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which elevates mood. Medications prescribed for depression and anxiety aim to increase this same neurotransmitter in the brain. Animals have been used in various therapy modalities to help with mood stabilization and clearly have earned the title of emotional support pets. Even low-maintenance pets, like fish, have been shown to improve mood.

Adopting a pet can lead to increased socialization–especially if that pet requires time outside. Taking a dog for a walk or to the dog park can lead to conversations with new people. From pet-related discussions about tips for grooming your pet to simple discussions about the weather, pets make it easy to strike up new conversations. Having a furry companion could lead to new human companions that can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Physical Health Benefits

Most pets require some form of exercise, which means older adults are required to get out of the house more. As both pets and humans age, weight management can become more difficult. This can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease. Research shows that increased physical activity can decrease the risk of developing these chronic diseases for both pets and their people. Studies have also shown that older adults who own pets experience decreased blood pressure and a decreased risk for heart disease. Older adults may experience an increase in lifespan if they decide to adopt a pet. Having a fluffy life depending on them provides a purpose, routine, activity, and an array of health benefits, which can all contribute to a longer life.

Both pet and owner can experience improved overall health and wellness living together. If you have decided to adopt a pet, please make sure to contact us to schedule a wellness visit to make sure your new pet starts off on the right paw.