Seniors are the least likely people to have a pet. Pet ownership seems to be the domain of the young: 78% of parents with children own a pet, but only 41% of retired older couples are pet owners. And even fewer single people over 65 have a pet – only 29%.
You may hesitate to adopt a pet because of financial reasons or because the responsibility of a pet might tie you down in your carefree retirement. But there are many good reasons for seniors to take the plunge and adopt a pet.
Pets can improve your physical health
Having a pet can help you stay active as you age. Dogs need walks, and they need someone to walk them. Studies show that older dog owners are at least 12% more active than seniors who don’t own a dog. Staying physically active is one of the best ways to stay healthy; among other benefits, it reduces the risk of falls and fractures and may prevent age-associated loss of bone density.
It’s not just dog owners who reap the benefits of pet ownership. Pet owners in general have lower blood pressure and lower levels of stress. Amazingly, research shows that, on average, older pet owners needed medical services only 30 times per year, compared to 37 times for non-pet owners of the same age range. In the same study, pet owners spent an average of only 8 days in the hospital, compared to the non-pet owners’ 13 average hospital days.
Pets can improve your mental health
The responsibilities and commitments a pet brings are actually good for you. Retirement can sometimes bring a sense of helplessness or uselessness, but knowing that pet is relying on you can help give focus to your day, renew your sense of identity, and encourage you to be more involved in day-to-day activities. Having a furry friend to take care of helps keep you independent. It reminds you that you are needed. All of this mental stimulation can help manage conditions like depression and anxiety.
In addition, pets live fully in the present, in the here and now. This focus can rub off on their owners, helping you to embrace the present instead of fixating on the past or worrying about the future. Pet owners seem to cope with life events and stresses better than non-pet owners. Sharing your home with a pet reduces loneliness, helps you think more clearly, and worry less.
Pets can provide security
Researchers in the UK asked ex-criminals what factors would discourage them from breaking into a house. One of the top answers was the presence of a barking dog. This logic works outside the home, too. If you have a dog with you on a walk, one that might bark and draw attention to you when a stranger approaches you, you’re less likely to seem like a target to thieves.
Pets help you meet people
Having a pet can lead to a more active social life. A dog out for a walk is a magnet for friendly people. Just try to get through a walk without another dog owner stopping to say hi or at least pausing to smile and admire your furry friend. You may even find yourself becoming more involved in your neighborhood – helping clean up the park where you walk your dog or petitioning for a new dog park.
There are so many adoptable pets waiting for a home – find one that matches your lifestyle and personality, and start reaping the benefits of pet ownership!