We are a proud nation of dog lovers, but did you know that dogs and other pets can offer significant health benefits to the elderly? To celebrate National Dog Day on Sunday 26th August, we are taking a look at the advantages of owning one of these cuddly creatures in your older years!
Companionship, cuddles and cardio
Owning a dog – or indeed another type of pet – is a brilliant way of combatting loneliness in the older generation. More than a million older people say they often go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member, according to Age UK. Talking to or stroking a dog is a valuable form of social interaction, offering companionship to someone whose social group has narrowed as they’ve got older.
Pets also offer emotional support and physical health benefits; owning a pet can help prevent the common emotional problems associated with loneliness, such as anxiety and low self-esteem. Having an animal to care for and nurture gives the owner a purpose every day, and a sense of being needed.
Furthermore, countless studies have shown that pets have the ability to lift the spirits of their owners. Dogs are renowned for their unconditional love of their owners, and the feelings of bonding when cuddling a pet can not only have a calming influence but also significantly increase your levels of oxytocin (the love hormone!) Owning a pet can also have physical health benefits, such as enhanced cardiovascular functioning.
Matching your pet to your lifestyle
While dogs make wonderful pets, they might not be suitable for everyone. They require firm leadership and regular walks, which makes them best-suited to active seniors who have a good level of physical fitness. We would recommend older and smaller breeds of dogs rather than boisterous puppies for older owners, as older dogs have already been housetrained and generally require less walks.
For seniors who aren’t able to commit to the needs of a dog, there are other pets which may be more suitable for them. Pets such as cats and hamsters will still provide owners with companionship, cuddles and a sense of purpose – the value of which cannot be understated.
What happens if the owner needs care?
There might come a time where your elderly relative cannot provide the same level of care for their pet as before. This can often lead to the beloved pet having to be rehomed – especially if the owner has to go into a care home – which can be extremely distressing for both the owner and pet.
This is where our at-home care service can help. We want to help our clients stay in their own homes for as long as possible, and this includes their pets too! Our dedicated Caregivers can help with feeding or walking a pet – these tasks can be integrated into your bespoke care plan.
Find about more about the services we offer here.