Pets for Health and Aging

Photo of elderly woman holding cat the health benefits of owning petsWould you like to be more alert, reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, be less anxious and live longer WITHOUT taking a drug?!?!? Time to get a Pet!

For anyone who owns a pet, it may be obvious some of the benefits they can offer you and your family.  The love and attention that a pet can offer an individual who may be lonely or isolated can be better than some medications, according to the experts. Furthermore, studies strongly suggest that elderly people who own pets have better health, such as lower blood pressure, less anxiety and tend to live longer lives.

In 1980, a clinical research project at Brooklyn College, New York, studied heart-disease patients after their discharge from the hospital. Dr. Aaron Katcher, M.D., reported:

“The presence of a pet was the strongest social predictor of survival…not just for lonely or depressed people, but everyone – independent of marital status and access to social support from human beings.”

Health Benefits and Pet Therapy for the Elderly

Here are a few of the benefits pets provide to the elderly in home and facility settings:

  • Companionship
  • Routine
  • Exercise
  • Lowered Stress
  • Protection
  • More interest in life
  • Decreased depression
  • Less visits to the doctor
  • Increased self-care

Providing an elderly person with a pet gives them companionship they may not already have. When people feel loss, they may become depressed and can sometimes stop eating. This can be life-threatening for an elderly person that does not have relationships or an adequate support system in their lives.  A pet offers unspoken affection and friendship that can help to give more vitality, happiness and a sense of purpose to an elder.

Nursing Homes Use Pet Therapy

There are many nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the country already participating in utilizing pets as therapy to help bring joy to their residents. This has become popular over the years and become clear to those who see its benefits that it makes people happier. “The Eden Alternative” and “The Green House Project” are just a couple examples of organizations committed to improving the lives of elders by utilizing pet therapy.

Though there are substantial benefits to adopting a pet, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Much should be taken into consideration, such as type of pet, age, pet health, and finances. For more information about considerations to make if you are thinking about adopting a pet, please see The Healing Power of Pets for Elderly People  Research is critical to finding the right pet.

For more information about how you can connect a pet with an elderly individual, go to The Pets for the Elderly Foundation.

Papa Learns About the Health Benefits of Owning Pets

We love this video where Papa gets a puppy:

As you can see, there are many health benefits of owning pets. Be sure that the elderly person is able to properly care for the pet. What type of animal you choose has an impact on this decision.