2001-Tue Jan 24 14:14:58 EST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Study after study has shown the benefits of pet ownership for seniors:
Pets help reduce stress, lift depression, boost self-esteem, increase exercise — the list goes on. But according to elder care expert
Barbara McVicker, who launched the PBS special
Stuck in the Middle: Caring for Mom and Dad, perhaps the most important benefit is that pets provide companionship. “Loneliness and isolation have such a profound effect on the elderly. They can go days or weeks without touching another human being, without talking to anyone else,” she says.
Pets can help with that. “They give the other kinds of feedback you want: somebody that’s excited when you get up in the morning, some entity to talk to, keep you warm, watch TV with you," says McVickers. In fact, when writer
Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic to determine the lifestyle factors linked to longevity, one key indicator was
having a reason to get up in the morning," And pets definitely provide that. After all, they generally wake up hungry or in need of a walk or a cuddle — and they’re not shy about “requesting” their owners' attention to these matters.
What’s more, says
Mary Craig, DVM, “Animals live in the moment, letting go of the past and not worrying about the future. This can be a powerful state of being for seniors, or any of us, to share.”
Dr. Craig's company, Gentle Goodbye Veterinary Hospice & At-Home Euthanasia, provides end-of-life care for animals, which means she is often in people's homes and sees firsthand the benefits — and challenges — of pet ownership. “As people get older, their ability to care for pets can decline," Dr. Craig says. "The benefit of animals in our lives is negated if it threatens the health of the person or the well-being of the animal.”
Fortunately, there are strategies to help seniors avoid potential problems that can arise.
When getting a new pet for an elderly person, a
cat or small dog may be a better choice than a big, rambunctious Labrador, Dr. Craig says. “As mobility is reduced, managing a larger dog or getting up to let any
dog out gets more difficult.” Plus, an excited puppy on a leash can pull, leading to a fall. And big
dogs can be difficult to restrain or control. Another option Dr. Craig suggests: adopting a
mature pet, one who is a few years old, which can mean the rambunctious stages are avoided and training can be minimized.
But you don’t want a pet who is too old, McVicker says. The reason? “Any form of loss is so hard on the elderly. Their lives have become so much of a microcosm that they don’t have the distractions or other coping mechanisms that younger people might have: kids to take care of, a full calendar, a busy life. Their lives are so small by that time that the pet takes up a huge part of what goes on in the daily routine.” That means the loss of a pet can hit especially hard.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Want to choose the best food for your
pet? Here's why you shouldn't fear
preservatives or fall for marketing…
Electronic cigarettes may be growing in
popularity, but their higher concentrations
of nicotine can poison cats and…
Are you handling your pet the right way?
Our vet shares five things your pup wishes
you knew about picking him up.
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
The laid-back American Wirehair’s crimped, coarse coat requires almost no brushing or combing.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.