If your parents are of a certain age, 65 plus, you may have spent the last 18 months or so being concerned about their wellbeing. You may have noticed a lack of motivation or purpose. The Pandemic opened the eyes of many to the plight of our seniors. Fortunately, there is an easy way to change this situation, a pet.
Pets can be beneficial for people of all ages, for seniors they can be a medical life saver. There are Studies that have shown as little as 15 minutes of bonding with an animal can set off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, resulting in lower levels of the fight or flight hormone, cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.
For some seniors’ isolation can be very hard on their mental health, equally as important as physical. Having a pet to talk to and care for can help pass the hours of the day, reawakening the feeling of once again being needed. Having a purpose, a reason to get up out of bed to walk the dog or feed the cat can greatly improve their self worth.
Having a pet can also increase a seniors’ network of friends. In the Blue Zones (https://www.bluezones.com) they talk about how building social bonds can increase longevity. Getting seniors out to walk their pet allows them to feel like they are part of their community. It offers them opportunity to connect with people of all ages, which studies also confirm aids in social connectivity. Varying the age group will give a wider range of topics and social views and experiences beyond just the pet, in other words pets are the perfect wing man.
While building community, walking a dog can also add to the physical activity minutes that are suggested to maintain health. It has been said that you don’t stop walking because you get old, you get old because you stop walking. Walking is the easiest and most economical form of exercise/movement. Having a dog along can increase a senior’s sense of security and mileage with little need for encouragement. Another physical benefit of having a pet is getting down on the floor to play with them. Studies suggest that being able to get up and down off the floor without support can lead to a longer life expectancy.
We know that some seniors may not have the financial means to keep a pet. There are several options that can keep them both involved and active. Fostering a senior pet is a great option. The rescue pays for all the expenses and the senior gets all the benefits. Volunteering with a rescue to help walk dogs is another great possibility. Some groups also have cuddle time where you can just go into the shelter and snuggle with cats or dogs.
Parachutes for Pets believes in the importance of the bond between seniors and their pets. They assist with vaccine and wellness clinics, pet food hampers, medical bills, and pet grooming. They also try to assist with veterinary fees when their funds allow. To learn more or to donate visit www.parachutesforpets.com.