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Pets provide unconditional love, comfort and support, which make them the perfect companions for seniors. The loneliness problem in the senior community is real. According to a recent University of California in San Francisco survey, more than 40 percent of American seniors experience loneliness on a regular basis. The lack of social connection and emotional isolation is as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. There are even connections between loneliness and the progression of cognitive decline and issues such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking care of a pet does more for senior than just reducing loneliness. Pets provide a sense a purpose for seniors as they know that another creature relies on them for care and affection. They also help keep seniors active as they have to get up to feed them, take them outside, bathe them, and play with them. Furthermore, pets reduce stress, anxiety, and can even ease feelings of depression.
When it comes to picking out a pet, seniors do have particular needs. It’s not typically the best idea to get an older person a young cat or dog. Kittens and puppies are needy, rambunctious and more likely to wreak havoc on a person’s home and belongings. In the end, a baby animal may actually cause stress, not reduce it. That’s why it’s best to look for an adult animal whose personality is already established and compatible with the person’s own personality.
Not picking a kitten or puppy is just the start. Consider the following with helping a senior adopt a new pet companion.
- Adopting from a shelter saves a life and your small adoption fee goes back to helping more animals in the community. Plus, shelters have adoption agents that will work with you to find the perfect pet for your situation.
- Consider the senior’s living situation when deciding what kind of pet to adopt. A large dog needs a yard or some sort of outdoor area where he can run off leash. Cats tend to do better with smaller spaces and are perfect for people living in apartments. Of course, you can’t convince a dog person to get a cat. Luckily, there are plenty of apartment-friendly dogs out there.
- Cats are great for people who prefer staying indoors as well as those with mobility issues as they don’t need to be walked.
- If adopting a dog, be sure to go over dog-walking safety with the senior. Make sure they have the right kind of leash and collar. Provide reflective gear they can wear if walking the pet at night. Finally, go over training the dog and how to let him approach other animals in the street.
- Help the senior set up their home for the new pet before its first day. Provide water and food bowls, toys, a bed, potty pads/litter box, and any other pet accessories they may need.
- When it’s time to bring the pet home, let the new companion explore the new place. It can be exciting having a new animal in the house, but be patient.
Pets are perfect companions for seniors as they reduce loneliness, provide a sense of purpose, encourage activity, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. When helping a senior pick out a pet, avoid a young cat or dog that will only disrupt their environment. Instead, look for an adult cat or dog well-suited for their situation, so they can reap all the benefits of pet ownership without all the headaches.
If you’re a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Pet Culture would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you’re interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.