The Benefits to Seniors of Having a Pet

by Johny Kershaws

For many seniors, owning a pet can make a big difference in their quality of life. Pets can provide companionship and unconditional love, both of which can be invaluable for someone who is living alone or has limited social interactions. Studies have shown that pet ownership can help reduce anxiety and depression and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

In the fall of 2021, The National Poll on Healthy Aging surveyed 2,051 adults, aged 50 to 80, and more than half reported owning a pet. A healthy majority of 88% said that their pets helped them enjoy life, and 86% said their pets made them feel loved.

Two years ago, I lost my wife to cancer, a tragic event that hit me hard. It was during the second wave of Covid, a tough time for everyone, made even harder for me by my wife’s death. That was when I decided to get a pet. I adopted Casper, a French Bulldog.

Casper helped me get through my depression and grief. He has been there for me, both a friend and a partner. Casper provides me with companionship and emotional support, reduces my stress levels and sense of loneliness, and has helped increase my social activities.

Research shows that having pets also promotes physical activity, essential for seniors in maintaining their mobility and independence. Even simple activities like walking the dog or playing with a cat can help seniors stay active and improve overall health. Additionally, pet ownership has been linked with lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. These benefits can reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in seniors.

Along with other important therapeutic effects of pet ownership is how pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. A recent study has shown that seniors who own pets have healthier hearts, lower blood pressure, and longer lifespans than those who do not. In addition, pets provide companionship and a sense of purpose for seniors who may otherwise feel isolated and alone. To deal with loneliness, you can move into assisted living for couples with pets.

Finding the right pet for a senior includes matching the way of life and access decisions and recognizing issues that might emerge later down the track. Pet-friendly retirement communities can be a great and cost-effective way to find a furry friend experiencing loneliness.

I also suffered some financial losses, impacting my social and personal life. While it is very difficult to face this situation as an older adult, I recognize how lucky I am to have Casper as part of my support system. I have learned how to become a survivor from my pet.

After losing my wife, I had stopped making new friends and attending any social activities. Once again, Casper played an important role for me. After many months, I attended one small get-together with Casper. There we met Suzy, also a dog lover, whose favorite breed is the French bulldog. Casper has brought us together and Suzy is my new best friend.