The benefits of pets for elderly owners

Author picture Jessica

One thing we know– it’s impossible to measure the many rewards owning a pet can bring.  

Ask any sitter on Pawshake! Pets give the gift of health, joy, comfort, companionship, laughter, cuddles, purpose, friendship with other pet owners and SO much more. 

With loneliness and isolation becoming potential issues for the elderly population, it’s worth looking to pet ownership as a source of healing and purpose. Here’s why…

Pets can bring mental and physical health

There’s nothing like getting out for some fresh air and exercise when you walk your dog. But did you know there is evidence that suggests owning a pet has a positive impact on stress, cardiovascular health and blood pressure? 

Other studies have shown that those who continuously own a pet visit the doctor 15% less each year than those who don’t.

The research is still new, but anyone who has cuddled a pet or watched kitten videos during a stressful week will know how incredibly soothing they can be!

Therapy and service pets

Depending on the scenario, a therapy pet can be a sweet (and very helpful!) member in the life of an elderly person. 

Therapy pets can visit and provide cuddles and companionship to those who need it most in care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. 

Service pets too can provide cuddles AND practical assistance for anyone with a disability, including those that are acquired later in life. They can help with everything from picking up dropped items, opening doors and crossing the street.

Pets get us back out into the world

Owning a pet can give renewed purpose and energy. They are the ultimate ice-breaker, encouraging us to connect us with our neighbours and strangers on the street who also love pets. Try walking your dog without catching a smile from a passerby….it’s not easy!

Pets also give us a reason to get up in the morning, make us laugh, bring back memories, give us a point of focus, teach us to play and be present and much more. 

Making sure it’s a good match

As ever, it’s SUPER important that any pet is matched appropriately. An elderly pet owner must be able to provide the care, focus and attention the pet needs in order for it to be happy and healthy. 

Pets cost money too - so food, vet bills, walkers, sitters and other costs need to be considered. 

Be sure to always have support and awareness from members of the family, and a plan in place should the owner become sick or pass away.

Context is everything! 

Matching a pet involves not only size – but also temperament, strength, physical features of the breed and energy levels.

For example - a small dog may seem like a great idea, but not if it’s super energetic. A big dog might be surprisingly great if it’s well trained and mellow in personality. 

Puppies or kittens may not be the best choice if their owner is very elderly, as some dogs and cats can live for 20+ years. An alternative might be to adopt an older pet - if there is a capacity to provide veterinary care.

Cats can be great pets for elderly owners as they are generally independent and require less exercise than a dog. Smaller pets like birds and fish are also worth considering.

There’s a lot to take into account when bringing a pet into an elderly person’s life! But with a bit of planning and consideration, the joys that a pet can bring can be immeasurable.