Apart from feeling happier to have a cuddly, furry companion to spend our time with, there are other benefits to enjoy from owning a pet. A fair amount of research demonstrates that pet ownership has multiple health benefits and pet owners lead healthier lives far into their senior years. Here are just a few reasons why there may be a pet in your future:
You get more exercise
As we age, our metabolism slows down and our energy levels gradually drop. Often, the decline in energy and physical activity leads to a weight gain which easily leads to other problems.
However, maintaining a regular daily exercise – like walking your dog (or cat) can prevent the damage caused by a sedentary lifestyle…leading to a lower body mass index.
Are you getting enough exercise with your pet? Take a look at Spot, or Kitty. Chances are that if your pet is overweight, you might need to amp up the activity, too.
Reduces Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Heart health is a key concern in later years…many studies show that petting a dog or a cat helps in reducing blood pressure and normalizing our heart rate. This fact might probably be one of the reasons why dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of death due to heart disease. In fact, a huge study in Sweden discovered that single dog owners had an 11% lower risk of having a heart attack compared to single people who didn’t have a dog.
All in all, having a pet in your life not only makes your heart fuller, but it also makes it stronger.
Reduces stress and anxiety
People who own pets are likely to have lower levels of stress and less likely to feel lonely or depressed. Besides enforcing a routine (which helps keep depression at bay), just stroking a dog or cat, even for a few minutes each day, makes a huge difference. A study just this year revealed that a mere ten minutes of stroking a dog or a cat results in a marked drop in cortisol, a stress hormone.
That’s not all: owning a pet often comes along with other activities that make us more sociable and active. If you’re a dog owner, you encounter a lot of people whenever you walk your dog. People like to stop and pet a dog, ask for his name and chat – so do people you meet in the cat toy aisle in a pet supply store.
Reduced Dementia Risk
Pets are good for mental health, studies show. Dogs are the most popular (therapy dogs provide many benefits to people in hospitals) but cats, birds and fish have also had a positive positive effect on people affected with dementia, one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
Staying active and having regular interactions with other people and new environments are considered to be the best prevention methods of dementia and mental health issues. Therefore, sharing your time and space with a cute ball of fur is the most entertaining and loving way to take care of yourself.
Is a pet right for you?
If this article got you thinking about getting a dog or a cat (Or, as this lovely story says “Man’s other best friend”), learn about different breeds and choose a dog or a cat that will fit your lifestyle and living conditions. No matter how beautiful having a pet next to you is, it also comes with a lot of responsibilities you must meet – daily walking, emptying a letterbox – plus extra expense for food, medical care and (of course) toys. (Although the Humane Society in some communities can offer some financial help.) Often people find an older dog or cat is easier to manager than a frisky puppy or kitten – and there are tons of older animals who would just love to live with you.
If you are up for the challenge and ready to open your heart and your home to a dog, cat, bird or fish, it will be an experience that will add so much to your quality of life!
Don’t take our word for it: Senior Planet pet owners – send us a pic of you and your pup, cat, bird or fish with a couple of sentences on about them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell the world about your pets and how they have enriched your lives–or tell us in the comments!
Kristina Lalovic is the editor of Barking Royalty, a website dog owners turn to for their dog related issues.