As we grow older, we’re likely to feel lonelier. Our friends and loved ones move or pass away, making it increasingly difficult to participate in social activities. But loneliness and isolation became even harder for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic—seniors felt less companionship and had fewer social interactions during the lockdowns.
Chronic loneliness among seniors can lead to adverse health effects, such as depression, cognitive decline, excessive weight gain, and a higher likelihood of mortality. To address this health concern, more seniors find companions in the comfort of pets. Aside from easing loneliness and mental health issues, pet ownership has loads of benefits, such as reducing stress, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and increasing one’s mood.
While pet ownership brings great joy, having a pet also involves huge responsibility. The challenge is even greater among older adults because it requires a level of work and dedication. For example, if you have a puppy, you have to keep it active and healthy by meeting its health requirements such as providing healthy puppy food, walking regularly, and participating in active exercises.
If you’re a senior and plan to adopt a dog or cat, it’s essential to know the critical considerations before getting a pet. To help you decide, we’re listing the things you should know when adopting dogs, cats, and other animals.
Physical activities can be quite demanding when it comes to dogs. You have to take them for walks to keep them active. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on the pet owner. The good part is it encourages the elderly to go outside the house and maintain physical activity, but if they’re sick or too weak to go outside, walks are not ideal.
Playing fetch is a great alternative to dog walks. You can play fetch with a dog in the garden without running around the area. But if physical activities still concern you, make sure to have an honest talk with a loved one to decide about pet ownership arrangements (e.g., who will take the dog for walks).
Dogs also develop health problems as they grow old, but they can live for as long as 18 years. Smaller dogs are ideal choices than bigger ones because of strength concerns. Puppies tend to be very active, making it difficult for an elderly person to keep up.
Temperament is also another factor. Some dogs are more aggressive than others. They can cause many problems for older people since you cannot easily control them during walks. Look for ideal dog breeds for seniors such as Shih Tzus, poodles, cocker spaniels, and French bulldogs.
Dogs make a great companion regardless of your age. They keep their owners from burying themselves into isolation because their mere presence provides comfort. In fact, most living facilities welcome therapy dogs because of the health benefits they provide. One example is the Pets & Friends Care in Singapore that brings dogs and cats to senior care facilities to bring joy to senior residents.
Compared to dogs, owning a cat is less time-intensive. Cats are also less active and don’t require walks because they prefer staying inside the house. They’re also easy to maintain because they only need a litter box to relieve themselves. The only drawback is it requires regular cleaning, which can be a demanding chore for seniors.
Older adults may have to worry about getting scratches and bites, especially those with weak immune systems. When seniors sustain wounds, healing time takes longer. Cats also shed a lot of fur (as do dogs), which can worsen asthma symptoms. Active cats can also cause frustration for seniors if they have a habit of jumping on high shelves and furniture.
Like dogs, cats can live for a longer period, but they’re also prone to various health issues as they grow old. Providing medication to cats is no easy task, which can be a huge problem for elderly owners. Also, cats tend to be active at night, so they’re likely to cause disruptions among troubled sleepers.
Still, cats have a very reserved nature, making them a perfect companion for seniors who want quiet company.
Birds, rabbits, and other animals
Besides cats and dogs, birds also make great companions. Bird species such as tamed cockatiel and parakeet can survive over a decade and can have brief conversations with people. Training a bird to speak also keeps seniors engaged, but other species may cause stress because of their loud, incessant noises.
Smaller animals, such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs also make great options for seniors. Their affectionate nature makes them good companions, but they also cause issues in terms of cleaning the cage and their habit of biting wooden furniture. Fishes also make great pets, but upkeep is also tricky because maintaining the aquarium can be quite a hassle.
Pet ownership can be a form of therapy for seniors who struggle with loneliness and isolation. Animals are great companions that offer loads of health benefits physically, mentally, and emotionally. After all, a pet can be your best friend and the best medicine, all in one. But if you’re having trouble with the upkeep involved in pet ownership, make sure to ask the help of a loved one to handle complex tasks.