For years, the Western PA Humane Society has taken steps to reduce loneliness in the senior population through therapy dog visits throughout the region. With millions of animals in shelters nationwide, it would be foolish to ignore the many benefits of pairing these two populations, which are so often overlooked. During Senior Pet Month at WPHS, we are especially dedicated to finding senior pets and senior people the ideal match for one another.
Anyone who has owned an animal knows the value of their companionship; the same camaraderie absent from the lives of the many senior citizens who suffer from loneliness and depression. When senior adopters are paired with the perfect pet, activities like feeding or grooming gives them a replenished sense of purpose. This obligation to a pet has been known to motivate senior citizens to focus on their own well-being. Petting and playing with an animal, like other pleasurable activities, even increases hormone levels associated with happiness and calm.
An animal’s presence not only provides company, but actually creates opportunities for their adopters to be social. People who are normally withdrawn can become sociable when neighbors come to visit their furry friend. Dogs can even be an extra set of eyes and ears for seniors, giving them the sense of security often missed by those living alone.
Beyond these more apparent perks, science has proven the health benefits of pet ownership, particularly in seniors. According to the Center for Disease Control, owning a pet can significantly decrease blood pressure along with cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both tied to heart disease. Studies have also shown that an animal’s presence reduces anxiety and stress in their housemates, especially for Alzheimer’s patients.
Adopting a senior pet eliminates the chance of dealing with the destructive phases of younger animals. Senior pets have already been trained, unlike rambunctious puppies or kittens, who are notorious for chewing, scratching, and having indoor accidents. Although additional training for older animals is not necessary, it can be fun and fulfilling for pet and owner alike.
Unfortunately, seniors often hesitate to adopt because of doubts that they can properly care for an animal. In reality, senior pets actually require minimal time and energy commitment. They are happiest in a calm and quiet environment, surrounded by those closest to them. Active seniors are best partnered with an older dog who can enjoy relaxed walks or games of fetch together, while senior cats are perfect for less mobile adopters.
For each senior citizen is a senior pet waiting for a second chance at being loved. Regardless of their existing lifestyle, seniors with pets enjoy improved emotional, physical, and mental health. This November, WPHS counselors are especially dedicated to bringing our treasured seniors together to share their loyalty and companionship through their golden years.
by Jamie Rempel