American humorist Josh Billings once said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” Given that as we get older, we may be looking for ways to lighten our responsibilities, some people may wonder – are pets good for seniors? If you’re currently a pet owner or considering getting one, here are some of the very real benefits of having a pet in your retirement years.
You Walk the Dog and the Dog Walks You
Research shows that dog owners walk approximately one hour longer each day than those without a four-legged friend. The regular activity that often comes along with taking your furry friend out for a walk can help decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Walking your dog on a regular basis has even been linked to improving your cognitive function and lowering your risk of having a heart attack.
Pets Can Improve Your Mental Health
If you find yourself living alone, having a pet can be extraordinarily beneficial for your mental health. Dogs and cats can stave off loneliness, reduce our stress, and help combat depression and anxiety. Having a pet has even been associated with lessening the effects of PTSD. It’s been increasingly recognized that dogs and cats have healing power by reducing stress hormones. A dog that sits by our side, or a purring cat that curls up on our lap when we convalesce can be so therapeutic when we’re recovering from illness or a setback.
They Boost Our Paw-sitivity
One of the most rewarding aspects of having a pet is all they do for our emotional wellbeing. Pets love us so fully and unconditionally that the bond created between pets and their owners is unlike any other. They hold us in the highest esteem and see us as the best version of ourselves. Who wouldn’t love that? Pets are great listeners. They think we’re “the cat’s meow” for being nothing more than our genuine selves. Spending time with your pet and experiencing the love that goes both ways can promote the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that help us de-stress.
Dogs Improve Our Social Life
Pets help us form connections with other people. Pet owners are 60% more likely to get to know people in their neighborhood. Walking your dog brings a natural interaction with other people and is an automatic icebreaker. It’s human nature for us to stop to chat, scratch a fuzzy head, smile, and acknowledge a pet and its owner when they pass on the street. Even for cat owners or dog owners who don’t take their dogs out themselves, our pets become a natural subject of interest to talk about with family, friends, and caregivers. Animals just create that space for conversation.
Pets Keep Us Mindful
Taking care of a pet creates a routine for us and adds structure to our day. The responsibility of caring for another living creature creates mindfulness and can help strengthen our cognitive functioning. Pets also have a way of keeping us in the moment, as we focus our love and attention on our fuzzy friend.
Dogs And Cats Can Help Keep Us Safe
Having a dog is like having an extra set of eyes and ears. Dogs will let you know when someone comes to the door and can be a measure of protection to shield us from possible danger. At the very least, the heightened senses of dogs and cats can serve as a kind of alarm, and alert you to things that might warrant your attention.
Pets Give Us a Sense of Purpose
Knowing how much our fur babies depend on us can remind us that we make a difference in the life of another. Having someone who needs us gives us a sense of purpose. There is great benefit to having that type of responsibility, and knowing we are providing a good life for our animals as important members of our family.
Spend Time with Animals, Even if You Don’t Have Your Own
Some people understandably are not in a position to own a pet. But you can still reap some of the benefits by interacting with animals when you have the opportunity. Spending time with other people’s pets still enables you to benefit from the human-pet connection, and the endorphins that make us feel joyful and calm.
Pets can boost your quality of life. They bring humor and laughter to our days, offer comfort, and companionship. They can make the difference between a life “endured,” and a life well-lived. Not sure what kind of pet to have? Older dogs make wonderful pets, and cats are especially good pets for people who may have arthritis, or any physical challenges.
At John Knox Village, we are a pet-friendly senior living community where pets are not only allowed but treasured. Our 70-acre campus includes the Wellness Park, a dedicated dog park enjoyed by all JKV residents, whether or not they have a dog of their own. We offer lots of “pet-centric” activities and events throughout the year for all our residents to enjoy, including visits from Canine Companions’ pet therapy dogs, pet parades, photo shoots, pet costume contests and more. It’s just one of the things that makes John Knox Village so special.
We’d love to tell you more. Call us at (754) 231-1411 to schedule a tour.