Companion Animals and the Elderly

Sep 14, 2017 | Blog

As many as half of UK households own at least one pet and companionship is amongst the most often cited reasons for having acquired one. People and the animals that they live with form close bonds that can have all sorts of positive impacts on both parties. These benefits have been noted especially amongst the elderly, for whom inactivity, isolation and depression are sometimes particular problems.

Some of the positive effects are physical. Pets such as dogs obviously need walking, which can encourage their owners get some regular, gentle exercise too, but even less energetic pets can help their owners stay active around the home whilst looking after them. Some studies have found that pet owners had lower blood pressure and cholesterol than those living on their own – something which may have a lot to do with their greater levels of activity.

Of course, perhaps the most obvious benefits are mental. It’s not just dogs that are a man’s best friend – pets of all shapes and sizes can help reduce stress, loneliness and depression in a variety of ways. The responsibility of caring for a pet can provide purpose and structure to someone’s daily routine, and animals are also a great conversation-starter, whether it’s out in the park with other dog walkers or over the garden fence with neighbours. Pets themselves can also be relied upon to provide a friendly, furry ear too!

As we are regularly reminded, a pet is ‘not just for Christmas’ and there are always considerations that must be taken into account with pet ownership. There will naturally be associated costs and responsibilities, and anyone in older age looking to acquire a pet should consider the type, breed and age carefully to make sure there is a good fit between pet and owner. A lively puppy or kitten will be adorable, but also quite demanding – not to worry though, there are usually plenty of older pets in need of a good home.

Whether yours is a long-standing family pet, or a recent adoption, provision must sometimes be made for periods of ill health. If you have a pet, staying at home as much as possible will obviously be important, and care providers, such as Greenwood Homecare, can normally factor basic assistance with feeding and looking after your pets into your care plan. However, the benefits of some animal companionship are now increasingly recognised, to the extent that some residential care homes are even working out ways of either accommodating owners with their pets or bringing in communal animals for their residents to enjoy.

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