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Pet Care and Your Aging Loved One
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on September 8th, 2016

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Pet Care and Your Aging Loved One

Aging & Caregiving

Pet ownership and your aging loved oneAn abundance of research highlights the value of relationships between pets and humans. The generation most likely to benefit from animal companionship, according to findings published in the European Journal of Medical Research? Older adults. Let’s take a closer look at why seniors and pets are a perfect fit, along with tips for helping your aging loved one choose the right pet.

The Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults

The advantages of owning a pet go on and on for seniors. For starters, there’s the emotional support they offer. Older adults who interact with pets are not only less lonely because they enjoy the companionship of their four-legged friends, but they also have enhanced social relationships with others due to the common interest of pet ownership. Research even shows that the comfort provided by pets triggers production of the “feel good” hormone serotonin and reduced levels of stress-inducing cortisol!

But the perks of having a pet don’t end with the emotional benefits. Older adults who own pets also benefit from having a daily routine, which not only adds structure to their lives, but also regular exercise. Animals are also known for their calming effect as evidenced by lower blood pressure and slower pulse rates among humans who spend time in their presence.

And then there’s the fact that in gaining the greater sense of purpose that comes from caring for something else, senior pet owners are also more likely to take better care of themselves.

Finding the Right Pet

Many different kinds of pets are suitable for seniors. Dogs are wonderful companions, but require more care and activity than many other types of pets. Seniors who prefer dogs but have physical or living condition limitations, might consider choosing breeds which requires less exercise and/or older dogs. Dogs can also be more expensive than many other pets, so make sure your aging loved one’s budget can support the additional expense.

Whether your aging loved one isn’t a “dog person” or simply isn’t up to the challenge of caring for a dog, cats are a low-maintenance alternative. Although they’re more independent than dogs, many also offer the same benefits -- including cuddling and companionship.

While dogs and cats may be the most common choices, birds, rabbits, and even fish all offer their own advantages depending on a senior’s unique needs. Not only do they take up less room, but they’re less expensive and require less dedicated care than their canine and feline alternatives.

Owning a pet can be a life-altering experience for seniors, which is why many senior living communities welcome pets to live on-site or participate in scheduled pet visits. One last thing to keep in mind? Pet ownership is a commitment. So whether a pet has fur, feathers or fins, doing ample research and taking the time to make an informed choice is an important part of the equation.


Key Takeaways

  • Human-animal relationships are mutually beneficial -- particularly when it comes to seniors and pets.
  • There are many scientifically proven emotional and physical advantages to senior pet ownership.
  • While dogs and cats make terrific pets for many seniors, there are other options as well, such as fish, birds, rabbits, ferrets and even rats.
  • Wondering which type of pet is best for your aging loved one? Due diligence is the key to choosing well.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.