New research from the University of Michigan shows that 55% of adults between the ages of 50-80 have a pet. These pet owners find it hard to imagine their lives without their furry, scaly, or feathery friends. There are various reasons why an older adult may decide to adopt a pet, including the desire for physical and mental stimulation, socialization, and companionship.
Having a pet can provide a source of exercise and help seniors stay physically active. Walking a dog, playing with a cat, or caring for other pets can also have positive impacts on a senior's mental health, reducing anxiety and depression, and elevating dopamine and serotonin levels. Pet ownership also provides opportunities for socialization, including joining pet-themed groups or events like dog walks and pet training courses. This can be especially important for retirees who may feel isolated after retirement and are in need of new ways to socialize.
Physical activity is essential for healthy aging and owning a pet provides numerous opportunities for physical exercise. Going for walks, playing in the park, and caring for pets can help older adults strengthen their muscles, improve their energy, balance, and bone strength, and maintain a healthy weight. For older adults living in smaller spaces, breeds like Shih Tzu and French bulldogs are great options for apartment living, while for those with more room, larger breeds like greyhounds are also good choices.
For seniors who are looking for the benefits of pet ownership but have limited space, there are smaller dog breeds suitable for apartment living. Alternatively, those with more space may consider pets like horses, alpacas, or goats that require more care and attention. Regardless of the type of pet, taking on the responsibility of pet ownership can provide a new sense of purpose, reduce feelings of loneliness, and improve overall health and well-being in later life.
For older adults facing loneliness and a sense of purposelessness, pets make great companions, offering love, affection, and a sense of responsibility. Different pets offer different companionship experiences. For example, dogs are known as "man's best friend" but cats, rabbits, and reptiles can also provide loving and affectionate companionship.
Lastly, owning a pet can greatly improve mental health for older adults. It can help manage depression and anxiety by elevating dopamine and serotonin levels, and provide a new purpose in life. Breeds like King Charles Cavaliers, West Highland White Terriers, labradors, and retrievers are great for pet therapy and make for loyal and loving companions. With the benefits of pet ownership, older adults can improve their overall health and live happier, more fulfilling lives.