Pets are wonderful to have around the house. They’re perfect for fun and loyal companionship, teach children about responsibility, and make for great social media sharing – all they ask in return is to be loved and cared for.
For older adults, pets can bring added joy and comfort to their lives, especially if they spend a lot of time alone at home or have had many peers and loved ones move or pass away. Pets bring many benefits to older people, but it’s essential to match your loved one with a pet that suits their needs and lifestyle.
The benefits of pet ownership to older adults
One of the reasons pets bring so much joy to older adults is because they live in the moment and tend not to worry about tomorrow. That approach to life has a tendency to rub off on people, creating happier days full of love.
Here are some of the many benefits pet ownership brings to older adults:
Reduced stress and lower blood pressure
Most pets bring love, affection, and companionship to their owners. Petting a beloved dog or cat can have a calming sensation on people, reducing stress levels and positively affecting blood pressure.
Helps solve depression
Older people can feel lost and alone at times, especially if they don’t go out anymore, possibly leading to symptoms of depression. Pets are loving companions that people can always rely on for loyal company, helping to ward off depression.
Increased social interaction
People love making their “fur babies” a favourite conversation topic, helping to support social connections. Plus, walking the dog is a great way to meet new people – especially if they are dog lovers as well!
Pets can help promote better memory recall in their elderly owner, which is important for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Focusing on caring for something also helps stimulate brain activity, potentially slowing down the progression of the disease.
Although the responsibilities involved with pets might seem unattractive at first, the benefits of pet ownership far outweigh the care they need – and the reward of unconditional love is absolutely priceless.
Matching the right pet with your loved one
The success of pet ownership for older adults depends on matching the right pet that suits your loved one’s lifestyle. For example, if older adults are set in their ways and don’t like change, they might not be the best candidate for pet ownership.
Also, it helps if the person has owned pets before, so they’re already familiar with the commitment involved. However, if the person doesn’t mind changing their routine, they might make excellent pet owners!
Here are some tips that will help match your older loved one with that perfect pet:
Find a pet that’s suitable for the person’s level of mobility
A dog might make an excellent companion, but they sometimes aren’t the best choice for people with limited mobility. If walking a dog would be too much for the person, pets that don’t require a lot of maintenance, such as a cat or a bird, might be a better choice.
Make sure they can afford to own a pet
Many older people may find it challenging to work pet ownership into their budget. Costs for medical care, food, grooming, toys, cat litter, and more can add up, so be sure to choose a pet that the older person can afford.
Consider getting an older pet
Puppies and kittens require lots of care and training. Older pets might have physical limitations but are already trained, reducing the care demands on your elderly loved one. They will provide just as much love and companionship as younger pets do.
Ensure the pet is healthy
Have any pet you’re considering for adoption thoroughly checked by a veterinarian. Pets with health problems can become difficult for older people to handle both emotionally and financially. You also want to make sure that the animal isn’t carrying a disease that can be passed on to humans.
Interact with potential adoptees
Specific breeds are known to have different characters. However, not every animal fits those preconceived notions and has a unique personality, temperament, and energy level. That’s why it’s essential to interact with potential adoptees to ensure that the animal’s an excellent fit for the older adult before choosing based on what you’ve come to understand about a particular breed.
Avoid adopting multiple pets
It may be true that more pets bring more love, but multiple pets will likely bond with one another rather than with their owner. Adopting only one pet will ensure your loved one will have a focused, loyal companion.
Think about backup plans for pet care
Life is unpredictable, and there may come a time when your loved one will be temporarily or permanently unable to care for their pet. You should have a contingency plan in place where a friend or family member can take on the responsibilities of pet ownership when your elderly loved one is no longer able to.
Find a pet for seniors in Toronto
Breeders are often an excellent source for pets, but adopting from shelters or rescues is much more affordable and comes with the added peace of mind knowing that you may have saved a loving animal from an unfortunate end.
Elderdog is an excellent website dedicated to building connections between older dogs and older people. The City of Toronto offers resources to adopt pets through City-run shelters. You can also find links to shelters and rescues through Pet Finder or adopt directly from the Ontario SPCA, the Toronto Humane Society, or Mattie’s Place.
Pets are a wonderful addition to any family, especially when adopted to provide love, companionship, and support to an older adult. At CareHop, we share that same passion to bring joy and sunshine into the lives of seniors through quality professional home care. If you have any questions about our services, please contact my team or me anytime.