06 Sep The Benefits of Owning a Pet
For all ages, owning a pet can bring their owners great joy, emotional comfort, and companionship. They provide humans a secure attachment by giving unconditional love. Overall, pets brighten the day, and are often the source of laughter through their antics.
And for older adults, the physical and psychological benefits of pet ownership can help keep them both happier and healthier as they age. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness.
In a recently published University of Lincoln and Glasgow Caledonian study, researchers found positive benefits for seniors who own a dog. For older adults, the study concludes, dog ownership increases the likelihood of achieving World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on levels of physical activity.
Physical activity is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, multiple cancers and depression. This research adds evidence to show that owning a pet dog can help support health as people age. The study, published in BMC PublicHealth was conducted in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare.
“Dog owners were found to walk over 20 minutes more a day and this additional walking was at a moderate pace,” says Dr Philippa Dall, lead researcher. “For good health WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. Over the course of a week this additional 20 minutes walking each day may in itself be sufficient to meet these guidelines. Our findings represent a meaningful improvement in physical activity achieved through dog walking.” Professor Daniel Mills, project leader, says, “By staying active we can improve our health and other aspects of our quality of life.”
Major transitions in the elderly years can often lead seniors to have feelings of sadness and loneliness. Losing a life partner, retirement, the loss of friends/family, grown children busy with their own lives, or health issues can all contribute to these feelings. Owning a pet can help alleviate loneliness by creating opportunities for seniors to meet other people and socialize. In addition, a pet helps a senior focus on something other than themselves. Many of my clients have told me how lonely their lives were before a pet came into their lives. Pets are also used in therapy for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease to help reduce anxiety and agitation.