Owning a pet can be fun and rewarding for people of all ages. Who does not appreciate the joyous greeting your dog displays when you return home for the day, tail wagging furiously – that sparkle in his eyes just for you? Or how about snuggling with your soft, sweet cat while her gentle purr tickles your ears? Their antics are sure to bring a smile to your face no matter what is going on around you, and the love they have for you is certain to lift your heart on even your worst day.
Aside from the warm and fuzzy feelings pets provide, it is becoming widely known that owning a pet can be beneficial to a person’s health and overall well being, especially for the elderly. Extensive research has shown that seniors who own pets may have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, shortened hospital stays, increased socialization, and may be less susceptible to bouts of depression. Walking a dog encourages exercise, and caring for any animal fosters the caregiving side of a person, fulfilling our natural nurturing instincts. Many assisted living facilities are now allowing visits by dogs because the interaction with the elderly can be therapeutic in lifting their spirits and brightening their days, reducing stress, anxiety and loneliness.
Diane Pomerance, Ph.D., is a renowned pet expert who has published seven books on various topics of owning pets. She believes the most important thing owning a pet offers people of any age is loyal companionship. This can be important for seniors who have lived long enough to survive the loss of beloved family and friends. Not only do pets provide comfort during times of grief, but caring for a pet gives a person a reason to get up every day and reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. Loneliness can be prevalent in the lives of seniors, and pets are able to fill that gap by being needed, offering unwavering love and steadfast support to their owners.
Pets are rewarding, but they also require proper attention and care. If the senior in your life decides to become a pet owner, it is important to help determine the best pet by using the physical capabilities of your loved one as a critical guideline. Owning fish can offer the same feelings of calm, stress relief and other benefits discussed above, but cleaning and maintaining a fish tank may require assistance not readily available. Cats are somewhat easy, as the attention they require is minimal compared to dogs that may need to be walked daily. For the elderly choosing dogs, Dr. Pomerance recommends animals that are a bit older themselves and already well-trained, instead of puppies. She is also an advocate of the elderly rescuing appropriate animals from shelters, believing these angels are saving a life and enriching their own.
If your elderly loved one seems a bit lonely or in need of something that provides a sense of purpose, consider helping choose a pet. Pet owners will tell you that nothing compares to the unconditional love that pets freely give, forging a unique bond that transcends the barriers human-to-human contact can present. Pets do not care what we look like, if we are having a bad hair day, or if we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. No need to keep up with the Joneses, either, for we can be exactly who we are with our pets…and they will love us anyway. FBN
Places in Flagstaff to find a rescued pet:
Rescue Me! Pet Adoption Center at the Flagstaff Mall 526-7767
Second Chance 11665 N US Highway 89, Flagstaff 526-5964
Coconino Humane Association 3501 East Butler Avenue 526-1076
About Comfort Keepers
Cindy Harris is the owner of Comfort Keepers. With over 560 independently owned and operated locations, Comfort Keepers is a leader in in-home senior care to promote independent living. Flagstaff: 928-774-0888, 214 N. Sitgreaves St., Flagstaff, AZ