Dr. Ralph Lavelle, Veterinarian, MB of the University of Melbourne Veterinary Clinical Centre says, “if this were a drug, it would be marketed tomorrow.” He was not referring to radical treatments for cancer, drugs for Alzheimer’s or electroconvulsive therapy for depression; he was talking about pets for the elderly and the positive impact they have on the lives of seniors. Studies indicate that senior pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower risk of heart and cardiovascular disease which reduces the risk of suffering from depression.
Pet ownership doesn’t just help seniors that are lonely or feel isolated. Studies indicate having a pet is beneficial to all pet owners. Research has shown the most serious risk to seniors is not heart disease or cancer; the most serious risk for the elderly is loneliness. Having a pet offers unconditional love and affection helps fight loneliness, especially after the loss of a loved one. Pets rely on their owner to take care of them by providing them with food, love, and exercise; which helps seniors engage with the pet and do activities which they may not otherwise do. Taking their pet for walks help seniors stay active and many pet owners meet other people while engaging in activities with their pets. According to one study, caring for one’s pet helps the elderly overcome loneliness and depression and also helps them think about other things than their own problems.
Having a pet encourages elderly individuals to stay active which leads to a more energetic lifestyle. Pets need activity and lots of attention, which helps seniors to engage in a more active lifestyle. This kind of activity helps reduce blood pressure and encourages a healthier lifestyle, which in turn reduces illness in seniors and therefore, less doctor visits.
Not only does being a pet owner have health benefits, they also make terrific companions for seniors and provide a sense of security. Having a pet helps seniors have better self-esteem because the pet completely relies on their owner for their needs, but in return, the pet provides unconditional love and companionship. Studies have also shown that a senior with a pet has a greater chance of surviving a life threatening coronary occurrence than seniors who are not pet owners.
The impact animals have is so great that animals are also used for assisted therapy in skilled nursing homes to help reduce anxiety and give the residents something to look forward to. Interacting with animals has proven to help patients’ recovery time and residents overall state of mind.
At Senior Care Centers, we encourage our residents to interact with animals. We understand the health benefits which animals bring to people and love having our furry friends around.