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Pets Make Great Companions for the Elderly

Pets Make Great Companions for the Elderly

Senior citizens are wonderful personalities with lots of life and love to give; but, with no family, grown children, or the loss of a significant other, many seniors find themselves lonely.  Dogs and cats can be wonderful, loving, companions for the elderly because they can give their owner a new lease on life.

Loneliness in Seniors

Research shows the most serious disease for older persons is loneliness.  According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), people 60-years-old and older who reported feeling lonely saw a 45 percent increase in their risk for death.  Isolated elders also had a 59 percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts.

How Pets Help the Elderly

Pets can help fight loneliness by offering affection, unconditional love, and companionship.  In fact, companion pets have been shown to reduce stress levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.  Studies have reflected that pets can also help fight depression, lower cholesterol, and protect against heart conditions.

Companion dogs for elderly family members give their owner a purpose and responsibility.  They give them a reason to take walks, get involved in daily activities, and socialize.  They provide companionship and laughter when alone at home.  Pets can give an elderly person a great sense of self-worth because pets rely on their owners for virtually every aspect of their caretaking. The elderly also benefit from the unconditional love and affection their pets give back to them.

Best Dogs for Senior Citizens

Seniors seeking companionship should consider a pet that is calm and easily manageable.  Typically, older animals are better choices rather than young puppies or kittens.  The quiet home of a senior citizen is often the perfect match for an older animal looking for a new home. Senior animals are often calmer and already trained.

Whether a senior citizen is living at home or in an assisted-living facility could help determine the type of pet they choose.  There are many great programs that match senior animals with senior citizens. When choosing a dog, the key is to research and find a pet suitable for your living conditions and activity level

Size does matter.  Often large dogs can take up too much space and be too rough or too heavy for an elderly person.  In contrast, a teacup dog might present problems due to the bending required to pick up the little pooch.  Cats are often good choices for a senior citizen that wants companionship in the home rather than a more active dog. 

Overall, pets are a great option for reducing senior citizen loneliness because they provide companionship, love, security, and affection.  Regardless of pet breed, pet stairs and dog ramps should be considered to allow the pet access to furniture and beds without jeopardizing the owner's health.

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