Our Furry Friends May Help Us Live Longer

May 25, 2015

You've probably noticed that when you pet a soft, warm cat or play fetch with a dog whose tail won't stop wagging, you relax and your heart feels a little warmer. Scientists have noticed the same thing, and they've started to explore the complex way animals affect human emotions and physiology. The resulting studies have shown that owning and handling animals significantly benefits health, and not just for the young. In fact, pets may help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May of 1999 demonstrated that independently living seniors that have pets tend to have better physical health and mental wellbeing than those that don't. They're moreactive, cope better with stress, and have better overall health.

How do they do it?
There are a number of explanations for exactly how pets accomplish all these health benefits. First of all, pets need walking, feeding, grooming, fresh water, and fresh kitty litter, and they encourage lots of playing and petting. All of these activities require some action from owners. Pets may also aid seniors simply by providing some physical contact. Studies have shown that when people pet animals, their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature decrease.

Many benefits of pet ownership are less tangible, though. Pets are an excellent source of companionship, for example. They can act as a support system for older people who don't have any family or close friends nearby to act as a support system.. Often the elderly have trouble leaving home, so they don't have a chance to see many people. Pets give them a chance to interact. This can help combat depression, one of the most common medical problems facing seniors today. The responsibility of caring for an animal may also give the elderly a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. Pets also help seniors stick to regular routines of getting up in the morning, buying groceries, and going outside, which help motivate them to eat and sleep regularly and well.

Pets and the elderly have a lot to give to each other. Research and experience has shown that animals and older people can share their time and affection, and ultimately, full and happy lives. Though pets can't replace human relationships for seniors, they can certainly augment them, and they can fill an older person's life with years of constant, unconditional love.

Lake Prince Woods is a pet-friendly community. Our four-legged friends even have a special place to run and play at Lake Prince Woods: Wagging Tails Trail dog park. Please contact Kaye Albin, 757-923-5504, [email protected], or Trish Alt, 757-923-5559, [email protected] to schedule a time for you and your pet to come visit.

HealthPet.com
American Animal Hospital Association