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Ways A Pet Can Help Seniors

Studies have shown that seniors who own a pet have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and are healthier overall compared to non-pet owners. A pet is more than just an animal that is kept around the house; it also serves as a loyal and nonjudgmental companion for seniors who live alone.

According to Research done at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, seniors that owned a pet also exhibited higher levels of hormones that promoted positive and upbeat emotions like joy and relaxation.

What Kind of Pets are Best for Seniors?

There is no right answer here as everyone is different with their own preference. Ideally, the pet should be easily manageable and not require excessive care. Preferably, the animal should be something that the senior can interact with to some degree. The following make good companion pets for the retired lifestyle:

  • Dogs - Due to their active lifestyles, dogs promote more physical activity in their owners. Just the simple act of walking a dog is good exercise and only requires 10 to 15 minutes a day.
  • Cats - Cats are perfect for seniors looking for a pet that does not require too much maintenance. A research done at the University of Minnesota also shows that seniors who owned a cat were 30 percent less likely to develop a heart attack than non-cat owners.
  • Fish - While you cannot interact directly with a goldfish, studies show that just the act of watching fish swim can reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Birds - Small birds like a cockatiel or parakeet make great pets for seniors who live alone and would like to liven up the home with a little more noise. Furthermore, birds can also be trained to whistle or to perch on their owner's finger on command.

Where can Seniors Get a Pet?

A pet shop is the obvious answer and is also the only choice for those that opt for a small pet like a fish or bird. However, there are also animal shelters that have programs where they match seniors with a dog or cat. This is also a great way to save a pet that would otherwise be euthanized. The shelter may also waive any adoption fees for seniors who participate in the program.

Pets make a great companion because they listen without passing judgment. They provide unconditional love and make seniors feel like they have something to nurture and provide care for.