senior couple smiling at each other holding their pet

How Pets Can Help Seniors

May 1, 2023

It’s becoming scientific fact that the companionship of having a pet can help seniors in a few ways. Studies show that pets help aging loved ones with mental and physical health as well as improve the overall quality of life.

Additionally, pets can reduce anxiety, stress, and cholesterol levels and can help with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Plus, they’re just great to have around.

gold dog looks happy as her senior woman owner holds her

Pets and your mental health

Unconditional love. How can this not be beneficial for mental health? Cats, and especially dogs, have a knack for showing you how much they love and appreciate you being a part of their life.

While the scientific results are a bit mixed, the benefits go deeper than just being loved. Animal companionship can help stave off loneliness and isolation and give one a sense of purpose, which helps cut down of feelings of helplessness.

According to this NIH News article ”Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

senior couple walking their pet dog

Pets improve physical activity

Dogs need to be walked. Cats also need attention (and, believe it or not, if trained, can be walked on a leash). The responsibility to keep your animals active will force physical activity. It will become a part of a daily routine and ensure a certain level of physical activity.

Researchers are discovering that dog owners tend to be more active, if only by encouraging dog owners to walk more.

The increased physical activity will help with endorphins, improve circulation, and can have a great impact on mental health.

senior woman smiling at her pet dog as she holds him

Potential disease detection

Have you heard the story where a dog keeps nudging its owner on a certain part of the body? The behavior keeps up until the owner finally visits their doctor only to find they have cancer. In the area the dog was nudging.

It’s no secret that dogs have an amazing sense of smell. Turns out, there’s significant evidence that they can sniff out certain cancers.

According to Medical News Today, in an article by Jana Cavaco Silva “Dogs have also shown they can detect colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma by sniffing people’s skin, bodily fluids, or breath.”

senior woman with her pet cat

Keeping Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay

We discussed earlier that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, and other overall health benefits. But what if pet ownership could keep cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay? Or at least significantly slow its approach?

Part of this is that walking your dog in the neighborhood is going to increase the likelihood of social interaction. That’s right, having a pet can improve your social life. Having friends and people to hang out with has been shown to potentially cut down on Alzheimer’s risk – partly because socializing helps to reduce stress. Less stress helps keep the brain out of crisis mode and that seems to be a factor in holding cognitive decline at bay.

Back to pets. According to Tiffany Braley, M.D., M.S., Director, Division of Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology , in a study on how Having pets help slow cognitive decline among the elderly, “Since stress can negatively affect cognitive function, the potential stress-buffering effects of pet ownership could offer a plausible reason for the study findings…A companion animal can also help increase physical activity, which could then benefit cognitive health.”

senior woman reading a book with her pet beagle

The furry truth

If you’re this far into the article, and you are approaching your golden years, or you have an aging loved one, you should already be looking for the perfect furry companion.

Who knew that having a pet isn’t just a friendly companion to have around, but they can also significantly and positively impact our health?

One thing to consider – if you’re looking to get into an independent living, or other aging community. Some are not pet friendly and our team at Adore Mom can help you find those that are.