Pets are great at any stage of life. They offer unconditional love, companionship, a sense of responsibility and even an opportunity to interact with other people. Having an animal companion may be especially wonderful during retirement. Older pet owners are getting so many benefits from their animal companions, in fact, that they want to take their pets everywhere they go.
Not long ago, though, most establishments strictly forbid pets. Over the years, pet ownership and animal-assisted therapy have become increasingly popular in the United States. About 68% of households in the U.S. own a pet today, according to statistics gathered in the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, compared with 56% of American households in 1988.
The increase in pet ownership has prompted researchers to study its benefits. The rising number of pet owners has also prompted many businesses and communities to open their doors to animal companions. More places in Boca Raton embrace the pet-friendly lifestyle every day. Restaurants, spas, malls and even senior living communities now open their doors to furry and feathered friends of all varieties.
Here is what you need to know about the benefits of having a pet during retirement.
Benefits of Animal Companionship and Ownership During Retirement.
Having a pet just makes sense for many older adults. Pets are cute, loyal and fun to be around. A mountain of scientific research shows that animal companionship and ownership can even provide a number of benefits for older adults specifically.
A pet gives people something to care for, and everyone likes to feel needed. Caring for another living being can also cause someone to take better care of him or herself.
Providing daily care for a pet creates a routine for the pet and its owner. Routines help reduce stress and anxiety in older adults, increase feelings of safety and security and improve sleep. This is especially true in adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, who have trouble adapting to changes in a routine. The simple acts of feeding a pet, going for walks and even taking naps help older adults maintain a healthy and comfortable routine.
Loneliness can be an unwelcome companion for some older adults, and this loneliness can lead to depression and physical health problems. PBS News Hour reviewed several studies about loneliness and isolation. They found that 43% of older adults in one study said that they were lonely.
Healthline says that loneliness can raise blood pressure, increase depression, interfere with sleep, weaken the immune system and increase inflammation in ways that lead to disease or infection. Chronic loneliness can lead to cognitive decline. In fact, lonely adults ages 65 and older have a 20% faster cognitive decline than do other adults of the same age who are not lonely. Loneliness can even increase the risk of death.
Studies suggest a number of ways you can connect to reduce loneliness, and adopting a pet often makes the list. Life as an older adult can be lonely, especially for those who have lost a spouse, and pets provide good company. Pets love attention and often respond with affection. But, perhaps the best thing about an animal companion is that they don’t talk back!
Pet ownership, especially dog ownership, can also increase sociability to reduce loneliness. Dog owners have the opportunity to meet and engage with others during daily walks. Trips to the dog park also create opportunities to encounter others with similar interests.
Opportunity for Exercise
Pet owners also benefit from increased physical activity. One study found that dog owners walk up to 22 minutes more each day than people who do not own dogs.
The researchers in that study also found that the walkers strolled along at a brisk 3 mph, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines as moderate-intensity exercise. The CDC says that engaging in moderate-intensity exercise can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Walking at a moderately intense pace can strengthen your bones and muscles, boost your mood and support mental health, improve your ability to do everyday activities and even reduce your risk of falls. Moderate-intensity exercise can even reduce your risk of developing some types of cancers and increase your chances of living longer.
The authors of another study, published in The Gerontologist medical journal, concluded their research by saying that dog walking, “was associated with lower body mass index, fewer activities of daily living limitations, fewer doctor visits and more frequent moderate and vigorous exercise.”
You can enjoy all of these health benefits, just from walking your pet at a brisk pace a few times each day!
Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
One study, published by the American Heart Association, shows that simply owning a pet could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. This exhaustive study looked into every aspect of owning a dog or cat and the effects that pet ownership has on cardiovascular health, including its effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, obesity, the body’s reaction to stress and more.
Simply visiting with an animal can reduce the need for pain medicine. A 2014 study by Loyola University Health System shows that animal therapy lowers the need for pain medications after joint replacement surgery. In that study, some of the participants received daily visits from specially trained dogs that lasted five to 15 minutes. The other participants did not interact with these dogs. The group that visited with the pups required 28% less oral pain medication than the group that did not interact with these dogs.
“The animal-human connection is powerful in reducing stress and in generating a sense of well-being,” said the lead author of the study, Julia Havey, MSN, RN, CCM, from Loyola University Health System. “This study further demonstrates the positive influence animals can have on human recovery.”
Boca Raton Senior Living Community for You & Your Best Friend
Sunscape Boca Raton is an exciting new senior living rental community offering assisted living and memory care in Florida. Our bright and open community and spacious apartments make Sunscape a comfortable and safe space for both you and your animal companion. To learn more about how you and your four-legged friend can enjoy life at Sunscape Boca Raton, contact us today