The Risks and Rewards of Pet Ownership for Seniors

Whether you’re looking for a friendly face when you get home, or a walking buddy who’s always ready to hit the trail with you, there’s no companion quite like a pet!

Millions of Americans turn to their animal friends for comfort, friendship, and unconditional love—but could owning a pet actually make you healthier, too? All signs point to yes!

As a matter of fact, there’s a growing body of research that’s encouraging seniors to share their home with pets, to help improve their overall levels of health and happiness.

Are you considering whether owning a pet is the right fit for your lifestyle? Let’s take a look at some of the risks and rewards of pet ownership for older adults . . .

The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

From the CDC to WebMD, experts agree: There are plenty of ways that owning a pet can help you live a healthier life!

In fact, research has shown that owning a pet can help lead to:

  • Improved blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Decreased triglyceride levels
  • Better immune system performance

And that’s not all! Studies have also demonstrated that people with pets report fewer feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. As Harvard Health puts it: “Taking care of a dog or a cat can provide a sense of purpose and a feeling of validation when you wake up or come home and there’s someone who’s happy to see you.”

According to U.S. News & World Reportsenior pet owners also spend less time being sedentary, and report needing fewer doctors’ visits than non-pet owners. In particular, U.S. News suggests that “dog owners who walked their dogs showed the best health results” overall.

That’s not too surprising! Walking is one of the very best things you can do to get active and take care of your body. Getting outside with a pet is also a great opportunity to soak up some sun (and some much needed Vitamin D), and maybe even socialize with your neighbors, including fellow animal lovers.

The Risk for Older Adults

With that being said, it’s important to realize that there are definitely risks to owning a pet—particularly for older adults. It’s certainly not always easy to take care of animal, and seniors may be challenged by the demands of caring for a cat or dog.

For example, while walking a dog offers a ton of health benefits, it may be too much activity for those with chronic pain or mobility concerns, particularly if your pup is large or boisterous. You’ll also be responsible for cleaning up your pet’s messes, inside and out. This could require a lot of stooping and lifting, which can pose a problem for those with flexibility issues or back problems.

Dogs and cats often like to lean against or wind between peoples’ legs, which could endanger those with stability and balance issues. This could present a problem, because even a minor slip and fall could lead to a lasting health issue for some seniors.

Finally, remember that cats, dogs, and other pets can be very dirty, which could put people with compromised immune systems at risk. Besides tracking in muddy footprints and bacteria, pets can also carry certain diseases and parasites that can make humans seriously sick.

Other Things to Keep In Mind

So, what’s the paw-gnosis? The bottom line is that owning a pet may offer plenty of health and social benefits, but it’s not going to be the right choice for everyone.

When considering whether or not to take in a new pet, it’s important to be realistic about whether a furry friend will fit into your lifestyle. Ask yourself:

  • Will I always be able to remember to feed and care for this animal?
  • Am I physically capable of taking care of an active pet?
  • Can I afford to own a pet, considering that the average pet owner spends more than $2,000 per year?
  • Will someone be able to care for my pet, if anything happens to me unexpectedly?

Ultimately, the choice is yours! Remember, there are plenty of organizations out there that can help you decide whether or not a pet is the right choice for you—including those that help animals in need find loving forever homes.

And now, the Enrollment Specialists would love to hear from you! Has taking care of a pet helped you or a loved one live a healthier life? Are there any particular challenges that senior pet owners need to be aware of before they make a commitment? Be sure to let us know your thoughts (and send us your cutest pet pictures) over on Facebook!

Remember, if you ever have any questions about health or life insurance, the Enrollment Specialists are here to help! Led by our owner and principal consultant, Matt Peebles, we believe that there truly is a perfect plan for everyone, and we’ll work with you to help you find yours.

Ready to say “I Got A Guy!” for all things health and life insurance? Drop us a line today to get the conversation started for free.

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