You reach out your hand and gently pet the head of an eager pup. Immediately, you start to feel happier and less stressed. There's a reason why: Spending time with a furry companion can help release brain chemicals that are linked to well being. What's more, spending just 5 minutes with a dog can lower your levels of cortisol, a hormone that is released when you're under stress.
Why not have a dog or cat around all the time to help you feel better? Seniors are starting to do just that. Here are three comprehensive reasons why you might consider adopting a dog or cat -- or even another pet, like a rabbit or bird -- to provide companionship.
1. Pets Keep Seniors More Active
Your dog needs to be walked. Your cat needs exercise, too. Plus, you have to make sure you're getting them food and supplies, keeping their areas clean, and training them to be on their best behavior. All this adds up to more activity. Studies done by the National Institutes of Health found that people between the ages of 71 and 82 who walk dogs get more walking exercise and walk faster than other people of the same age. That translated to better mobility inside the home, too.
While cats and small animals don't demand the same daily movement that dogs do, there are people who walk cats for exercise -- and it's important to move with your cat every day to keep you both healthy. Sometimes just the knowledge that you need to get your cat moving for its health can encourage you to take part. Having a routine with another living creature can help you to stay active.
2. Pets Help Seniors Be More Social
Besides just seeing new people when you're out walking, there are plenty of ways your pet can help you connect with others. Numerous pet-related activities take place in many communities -- everything from a 5K walk with your dog to volunteering at an organization like a humane society that helps companion animals -- and taking part can help get you involved.
There are also many opportunities to interact with others in the day-to-day care of your pet. A trip to the store to buy pet food, a vet appointment, or a grooming date all give seniors a chance to get out and about.
People also choose to interact more with pet owners. One study found that people in wheelchairs who also had a pet enjoyed more smiles and conversations with strangers than those without pets. You're more likely to be involved in social interactions just by bringing your pet with you wherever you go.
3. Pet Companionship Helps Alleviate Several Health Concerns
If you have a pet, you're more likely to have:
- Lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
- A stronger immune system and fewer allergy-related problems. One study found an increase in immune system function after less than 20 minutes petting a dog.
- Less stress. The "happiness" hormone, oxytocin, increases when you're around a pet and the stress hormone, cortisol, is decreased.
- Help with brain health. You're more engaged when you have a pet and less likely to suffer from dementia.
- Less depression. Pet owners tend to have fewer mood disorders and can more quickly overcome anxiety and depression.
The reasons why pets are good for your health range based on the kind of animal and lifestyle you have, but the benefits for seniors are undeniable -- pet companionship is good for your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Concerned about the logistics of pet ownership? At Jacaranda Trace, you can purchase your own unit and pets are welcome to live with you. Our 33-acre campus offers plenty of space for you to comfortably walk your pet. And our personal transportation options ensure you'll be able to get out to the store and buy pet food and supplies as needed. Questions about living at Jacaranda Trace, with or without pets? We'd love to talk with you further; call us today for information.