As we grow older, we may begin to feel more and more disconnected from those around us. We may not have the opportunity to visit our friends and loved ones like we used to, and this can lead to an increase in loneliness for seniors. Deciding to invest in a companion animal can be one of the most helpful ways to banish loneliness and help bring some joy to the day-to-day.
Almost everyone will have a pet at one point in their life, and for good reason. Having animal companionship has been shown to decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase socialization and physical activity. Companion animals can also help alleviate symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness.
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, “Pets can influence our emotional state, our sense of security and acceptance, and even our positive outlook on life,” Iliopoulou continues. “It has been documented that grieving children and adults turn to their pets for comfort, and that pet ownership eases the symptoms of owners’ depression and anxiety. Dog owners, for example, feel safer and less vulnerable to crime,”. The benefits of owning a companion animal as an aging adult are certainly in no short supply
When it comes to possible drawbacks of owning a companion animal, it all depends on how well the individual feels equipped to care for the pet. Animals, while certainly a loving addition to the household, are also a responsibility. If you do not value change or are more ‘set in your ways,’ adopting a companion animal may not be the best choice for you.
If you or an aging loved one suffer from physical limitations or disabilities, owning an active pet such as certain dog breeds that require more exercise and can become more rambunctious may not be a good fit. This is also true for seniors who may be experiencing financial issues or strains. Adding a pet, with all the expenses that come with caring for an animal, may not be in the cards at that time.
If you sat down and decided that you or your loved one are ready and capable to take on a companion animal into your lives, great! Considering what kind of pet you would like to welcome into your home is the next step.
A dog is probably the most commonly considered pet when looking for a companion animal. Due to their upbeat and friendly personalities, a dog may seem like the perfect companion for a lonely senior. However, it is best to consider the temperament of certain dog breeds as well as the level of exercise they will require. Certain dog breeds like huskies and golden retrievers, while friendly in personality, require a lot more exercise than other breeds. If you do not feel confident you can keep up with an overly active pooch, then considering a more calm breed may be best for you.
Cats are another pet that instantly comes to mind when considering companion animals. Cats tend to demand less energy than dogs do, but they are still a responsibility as you have to ensure they are clean, fed, and their litter box is well taken care of. Cats also tend to be more independent creatures. While some cats may be very affectionate, others may enjoy more alone time. If you enjoy the comfort of knowing that a pet is around even without constant attention and affection, then a cat may be the choice for you.
A bird is a slightly more unusual pet to consider if you are looking for a companion. Birds generally require less upkeep than a cat or dog and can provide a nice singing voice to your home. Depending on the bird, they could also bring pops of color into your life and boost your spirits.
Fish are generally less expensive and require less maintenance than the animals previously mentioned. Constructing and decorating a fish tank may also be a fun activity for a senior to enjoy, and the fish can provide a nice addition to the home in terms of decoration. Remember, they are pets, and they do require regular feeding and cleaning out of their tank to ensure optimal health!
Hamsters, lizards, and more can also make great companion animals for elderly adults. If you or your loved one has experience with a certain type of pet and wishes to bring another member into your home, then any animal that brings you joy can become a great addition to your home.