People need people. And apparently, people also need pets. More than half of older adults have a pet and the positive impacts of these constant companions are not to be ignored. Pet ownership and successful aging go together like Scooby and Shaggy (or Toto and Dorothy, or Lassie and Timmy… the list goes on).
As a nation, we are enamored with our pets. Florida, specifically, tops the list of states with the most spoiled dogs. We love to cuddle our pets, dress them up, and celebrate their birthdays with lavish parties. Can we keep our furry friends well into our old age? The short answer is yes.
5 C’s of Pet Parenting for Seniors
- Continuing care
1. Pets are a healthy alternative to loneliness.
If your aging parent is struggling with a lack of purpose in their post-retirement years, there are few more meaningful pursuits than the love of a pet. Having a pet means focusing on the health and wellness of something outside ourselves, and, for a senior, that can be a much-needed mental break. If you are a senior considering sharing your life with Fido or Fluffy, you are not alone.
Studies show that seniors need socialization. Beyond interaction with other humans, older people have shown increased health benefits from companionship with pets. In addition to companionship with your pet, your furry friend will introduce you to other socialization opportunities. From Facebook groups for felines to meeting up with local dog park groupies, a pet can keep you cognitively stimulated and on track for successful aging.
2. Are you capable of taking care of a pet?
Pets come in all shapes and sizes. If a pet needs to be walked, are you able to do that on your own? With cats, a litterbox needs consideration and even birds require cage cleaning on a regular basis. The amount of care needed is certainly something to consider but does not necessarily need to be a deal breaker.
If you are considering a small dog for yourself or an aging parent, it can be a great lap companion. Additionally, a small dog stroller – also popular in Florida! – can encourage a senior to get out and walk with their dog safely. Adopting an older pet may also be a good choice because they are often calmer and more settled into a routine, making it easier for a senior to provide care. Think outside of the box to help seniors thrive with their favorite furry companions.
3. Pets can be expensive.
With the cost of pet food and supplies going up, it would be great if some of these wee beasts could get part-time jobs! Though they appear gainfully employed as the boss of us, we are still financially responsible for proper feeding and veterinary maintenance. For a senior on a fixed income, that can be an intimidating expense even though the return on investment is outstanding.
For a more flexible commitment and reasonable expense, consider fostering the animal of your choice. Often the pet rescue or shelter seeking foster homes will cover any medical expenses, leaving the foster to provide a home, food, and plenty of love. A temporary commitment may be more suitable for a senior still on the move or still considering if a commitment to an animal is the right choice. Or, if a long-term commitment is more your speed, save money by cutting down on costumes for your pet to wear for every festive occasion. (They can’t possibly enjoy them, can they?)
4. There is more to companionship than cats and dogs.
While dogs and cats are popular pets, other animals such as fish, birds, and rabbits can offer companionship, too. After all, it’s the heartbeat of another living thing that attracts our attention and captures our heart. We can become just as attached to a goldfish – and have noticeable improvement in blood pressure from watching the fish gracefully swim around its bowl.
Equally Loveable Pets
If a cat or dog seems to be a little too much, consider a less mobile option. Who doesn’t love a cute hamster or sweet little rabbit? They still offer companionship and have just as much personality as Fido and Fluffy.
5. Successful care strategies for pets and their seniors.
Still questioning if pet care will be too stressful? Consider a private duty caregiver. A win-win solution that delivers socialization and pet assistance in one wonderful package! Getting help with the care of a pet in no way diminishes the benefits we get from our animals. Even senior living facilities recognize the importance of pets, offering pet care packages in their schedule of fees. These services are offered to reassure every senior pet parent that their four-legged darling is welcome to make the move with them.
A pet is a commitment for life – theirs and ours. The care of our faithful companions must outlast us, so provisions are needed if we are no longer able to care for them. Pet trusts have become increasingly popular to ensure our beloved companions continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.
Companionship is Key
Everyone’s life is enriched by meaningful connections. Often seniors are less able to get out and engage with the world around them, so the companionship of an animal offers them a renewed sense of purpose and joy. Connection stimulates a positive outlook and nurtures self-esteem – an essential part of aging gracefully and successfully.
While there are arguments to be made for and against bringing home a new pet (or keeping a long-time animal companion), the positives can certainly outweigh the negatives. Above all, we want to see the seniors in our lives age successfully. How can we best contribute to their well-being? Companionship.
It takes a village to care for seniors. Often, we consider the obvious members of the village – such as doctors, church friends, and family – and forget about the pivotal connection between a person and their pet. Aging can be lonely. Let’s do what we can to provide companionship on the journey.
If you are considering companionship for an aging loved one, don’t count out their animal obsession. Count on the experts in Private Duty Home Care to provide the extra help needed to keep a senior and their furry friend together furever. Read more about the skills and expertise of Private Duty Home Care in the Resources Section of our Blog.