pets and the elderly

Dealing with retirement, debilitating illness, moving into an assisted care facility, losing spouses and lifelong friends. These are many of the challenges facing older people every day. Pets can provide valuable love and support during our later years.

Social support

Pets help widows and widowers cope with grief. In a revealing study, it was shown that pet owners were less likely to cry as often several months after bereavement than non-owners. Owners also often confided in their pets to help release sad feelings when sharing them with other people felt too uncomfortable.

Feline friendships

When a cat and an older person come together, the benefits for both are incredible. Feelings of loneliness, worry and isolation decrease dramatically. Physically, cats are not very demanding and owning one improves mental stability and brings true comfort in times of need.

Older people form incredibly strong bonds with their cats. For the owner, it gives them a keen sense of nurturing and brings meaning to their daily activities - important considerations which may further reduce the effects of depression, anxiety and loneliness.

Pets for care

Australia has a rich history of fostering human-animal interactions. Organisations such as the AWL (Animal Welfare League) promote the roles animals play in people's health and well-being whilst other programs encourage volunteers and their pets to visit institutions where contact with a dog or cat could possibly enhance the quality of life for people in nursing homes, prisons, children's and adult hospitals, mental health units, hospices, day care centres, rehabilitation units and schools.

Pets who visit or reside in nursing homes make wonderful social workers. Pet visiting programs also mean that many isolated elderly people (who perhaps once owned pets) are now able to pat, love and talk to cats and dogs on a regular basis. It decreases their blood pressure and increases their sense of joy and wellbeing. Nurses even report that residents who interact regularly with pets require less attention if there is a pet around to be loved and enjoyed whilst also:

- Alleviating loneliness and depression
- Providing activity and exercise
- Reducing grief when a loved one passes away

Choosing canine companions for older people

Here are some of the things to consider when buying a dog for an older person. They should be:

- Smaller and not too boisterous
- Light enough to jump onto his or her owner's lap and bed for cuddles
- Able to self-exercise and is not prone to obesity
- A smooth, short haired breed that's easy to groom
- Well-trained - so they know when to get out of the way and can handle noises and unusual situations

The OPTIMUM® Pet Selector can also assist you in finding a suitable pet for your elderly family member or friend, click here to use the cat selector or click here to use the dog selector.



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