Loneliness and Senior Health
Loneliness is a serious problem for older adults. According to an AARP survey, seniors reported lower rates of loneliness than those who were younger and those who identified as lonely were less likely to be involved in activities that encourage socialization, such as attending religious services, volunteering, participating in a community organization or spending time on a hobby. Experiencing loneliness can be extremely detrimental to a person’s health.
In 2015, researchers at Brigham Young University found that, based on data collected from several hundred thousand people, social isolation resulted in a 50 percent increase in premature death. Those who report feeling lonely are also likely to experience more health issues and injuries than those who feel they have social support.
The Health Benefits of Pets for Lonely Seniors
Owning a pet is a great way to help relieve senior loneliness. They provide loyal companionship for those who prefer to spend the majority of their lives at home and resting. Pets also encourage physical activity, though some more than others. Owning a pet also inspires people to read up on pet care, their breed and other research that is mentally stimulating for a senior. Pets are also masters of mindfulness. They live in the now and don’t worry about tomorrow — an attitude that can be healthy for older people. Pets help seniors appreciate the moment and stay positive in their situation. Finally, pets are proven to help with various health issues including:
- Stress and anxiety
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Picking the Right Pet
Pets are not right for everyone. People who are very set in their ways or those who simply do not like animals won’t reap the benefits of pet ownership because adding one to their household is disruptive. But for those who love pets, picking the right one is simpler. Older people don’t need high-energy breed or hyperactive puppies/kittens. When searching for a pet, it is best to look at grown animals that already have gentle and friendly personalities developed.
Take your senior loved one to your local shelter, talk to an adoption expert about their needs, and together you can see the best options available. Shelter animals get a bad rap, but the truth is there are a lot of pets in shelters without behavioral problems that just need another shot at life. There is no need to rush anything, either. There’s nothing wrong with walking away from the shelter empty-handed and coming back another day to find the best fit for your loved one’s home.
Pet Ownership Tips for Seniors
- Have the home set up for your pet before you bring him home. Have a food and water bowls as well as food and treats. The shelter can let you know what they were feeding him. It’s best to continue with that food for the time being to prevent stomach upset. If you have another brand you want to feed your pet, you can transition his diet over time.
- When introducing your new pet to your home, let him explore at his own pace. Give him plenty of attention and positive reinforcements while establishing boundaries around the house.
- An invisible electric fence is a great tool for keeping your pet safe and on property. Having a fenced in dog run or backyard is perfect for letting him do his business and get some exercise while staying safe.
Loneliness is a serious problem for older adults. Over time, loneliness contributes to increased health issues and a shorter life. A great way to combat this problem is through pet adoption. Not only do pets help ward off loneliness, they have various other health benefits that are great for seniors. When looking for a new pet, help save a life and get the best match by looking for adult pets from a local shelter. Older pets already have established personalities, so you can find the best fit for your loved one.