This week is National Pet Week®, which has been observed the first full week in May every year since 1981 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). It’s estimated that there are 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats owned by people in the United States, with over 79 million households owning a pet of some sort. The goal of National Pet Week® is to celebrate these pets and encourage responsible care throughout the year to keep our furry friends happy and healthy each and every day.
When you own a pet, it’s important to be educated about their needs to ensure your companion lives a long, full life. One of the best benefits of pet ownership, especially for seniors, is how they can enhance and add value to our lives as we age.
The Benefits of Pets for Seniors
Pets provide people of all ages love and companionship, making us laugh and feel needed without asking for anything in return. Here are the top five reasons why seniors should consider pet ownership:
- Companionship. It’s common for seniors living alone to become socially isolated, especially after the loss of a spouse. Perhaps loved ones aren’t nearby. A pet can help ward off loneliness and the depression that typically follows.
- Boost Physical Activity and Health. Pets require seniors to move; whether it’s to take them on a walk, play fetch, or scoop a litter box. Studies have shown that seniors who own dogs walk an average of 2.2 hours more per week than those without a pet. Plus, pet ownership has been known to boost cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
- Emotional Support. During stressful situations, pets can help reduce anxiety and provide emotional stability. Plus, studies show that even just touching a pet offers a calming sensation.
- Provide a Routine. Keeping a daily routine can actually help slow the aging process, and the process of taking care of a pet is repetitive in nature. Feeding, grooming, walking, etc. are all tasks that must be done on a daily or weekly basis.
- Stay Invested in Life. A pet keeps you engaged in life around you; keeping you physically active, getting out of the house regularly, making new friends, and allows you to feel useful. Taking care of a living being provides a feeling of satisfaction to keep you motivated and moving forward with your daily life.
Choosing the Best Pets for the Elderly
When choosing a pet, one of the first places to visit is your local animal shelter. Today, there are an estimated 7.6 million animals in shelters nationwide, from puppies and kittens to senior dogs and cats and everything in between!
It’s important to take your own needs into consideration before adopting a pet, too. While puppies and kittens are adorable, they’re also quite active and can take a lot more work than an older pet. Likewise, dogs tend to be more active and need more attention than cats, and if mobility is an issue, a lap-cat might be a better option than a dog who needs multiple walks per day.
Finally, you should also consider whether or not assistance with your pet will be available should you need it. If something were to happen health-wise, you’d want to make sure someone will be able to tend to your pet until you’re able to again.
Many of our locations are pet-friendly! For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com.