Health Wellness

5 Health Benefits of Pets for Seniors

From being the best workout buddy to helping you relax, look at these five health benefits of pets for seniors, and see how an animal friend can contribute to an incredible retirement.

More than half of Elder Americans report having a pet and are well aware of how much joy their furry, feathered, or even scaled companions bring to their lives. However, many Elders don’t know that spending time with their pet actually has incredible health benefits.

From being the best workout buddy to helping you relax, look at these five health benefits of pets for seniors, and see how an animal friend can contribute to an incredible retirement.

1. Owning a Dog Helps You Stay Active

One of the best health benefits of pets for seniors is they provide excellent motivation to get up and move. Pets, particularly dogs, require a lot of physical activity. Whether you’re lifting a bag of pet food from the grocery store shelf, picking up toys from the floor or going on a walk, there’s always a reason to keep moving when you have a pet.

In fact, giving into puppy eyes can help you achieve an additional 2,760 steps per day. A study published by BMC Public Health found that owning a dog not only motivated Elders to walk more often, it increased the time they walked, the intensity of their cadence and led to fewer instances of sitting down.

Plus, walking your dog outside is a moderate-intensity exercise that improves your muscle strength and increases your vitamin D level, which is important for your bones, blood cells and immune system.

2. Pets Boost Your Mental Health

There has been abundant research showing the many mental health benefits of pets, and many people report spending time with their pet is their favorite way to relax. Studies show that simply gazing into your dog’s eyes can increase your production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin and reduce levels of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol.

In a recent study, Front Psychiatry also found that 84% of military veterans and former first aid responders with post-traumatic stress disorder paired with a service dog reported a tremendous reduction in symptoms, which led to a decrease in medication for 40% of people who took part in the study.

However, it’s not just your canine that can help you relax. Both cats and pet fish have been shown to improve your mood, reduce stress and ease feelings of anxiety.

3. Interacting with Animals Improves Your Heart Health

Owning a cat or dog can improve your heart health in a variety of ways. According to the American Heart Association, your furry family member can lower blood pressure, decrease your resting heart rate, and reduce risk of hypertension. Harvard Health also states there is also evidence that owning a canine companion can reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A study published by the Journal of Vascular & Interventional Neurology found that owning a cat can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure and chronic heart disease.

If you need an excuse to visit the countryside, a study by The International Journal of Research and Practice found that Elders who interacted with horses had increased heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of the time between your heartbeats. High HRV can help you respond better to stress and improve your cardiovascular system.

Owning a cat can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals.

4. Owning a Pet Can Reduce Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation

More opportunities to make meaningful social connections is one of the most important health benefits of pets for seniors, because Elders are at greater risk of loneliness and isolation. These feelings can lead to decreased physical health, increased stress levels and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 86% of pet owners between the ages of 50 and 80 reported their pet made them feel loved, 73% stated they have a better sense of purpose, and 65% say their pets help them connect with other people.

While walking your dog and getting to know other dog owners in your neighborhood is the most common way to meet new people, a study published by PLOS ONE shows cats, rabbits and snakes can also help you form social connections.

Each Oaks Senior Living community has a house pet, fish aquarium, and an aviary with singing, vibrant birds. Our pet therapy program enhances the homelike atmosphere that we believe is powerful and necessary to a person’s quality of life.

5. Taking Care of a Pet Reminds You to Take Care of Yourself

If you have difficulty remembering to take your diabetes medication, perhaps you can follow the lead of younger generations.

A study by The Diabetes Educator found that children and teens with Type 1 diabetes who also have a pet that needs to be fed twice a day are more likely to take their insulin and check their glucose. Experts believe this result is because taking care of a pet reminds you to take care of yourself, as well.

While you may not need insulin, you can still use regularly scheduled walks, playtime and feeding times to remember to take other medications, drink water or perform other healthy habits that help you maintain an independent lifestyle.

Your Furry Family Member is Welcome at Oaks Senior Living

Our family-operated communities in Georgia and South Carolina help Elders thrive, grow and reach their full potential during retirement. To learn how you and your pet can enjoy the good life, call Oaks Senior Living at 770-796-5871 or contact us online. We’ll get back with you as soon as possible!

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