Few things are more inspiring than witnessing the bond seniors share with their pets. And what about aging animals? As evidenced by programs that encourage seniors to adopt adult animals, senior pets and senior citizens are truly a match made in heaven.
Today, many Seniors for Seniors programs are popping up across the nation to match senior pets with seniors who can offer them a loving home. In addition, more and more assisted living facilities are allowing pets and/or pet visitation. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of pet ownership.
Pet Owner Benefits for Seniors
According to “The Health Benefits of Companion Animals,” a booklet available on the National Park Service website, seniors in poor health were once encouraged to give up pet ownership, as it was believed that diseases could spread between seniors and their animal companions. The advice given to health practitioners today, however, is much different. The booklet says, “Consider ‘prescribing’ an appropriate animal- or pet-assisted therapy for patients who desire an animal and may safely benefit from it.”
“The Health Benefits of Companion Animals” points to several studies suggesting psychological and physiological health benefits for seniors, such as:
- Increased survival time after a heart attack
- A decrease in heart rate after petting a dog or watching fish in an aquarium
- Decreased stress, both physical and psychological
- Better overall health
While this science isn’t settled, this data is certainly indicative of a positive relationship between seniors and their pets — and older adults are quick to agree.
A survey of senior attitudes toward pet ownership reveals:
- 95 percent of respondents talk to their pets.
- 82 percent find solace in their pets when they feel sad.
- 71 percent say their pets make them feel better when they’re physically ill.
- 65 percent feel better when they touch their pets.
- 57 percent confess to confiding in their pets.
Companion Animals Benefit from Seniors for Seniors Adoptions
Like their owners, senior pets greatly benefit from Seniors for Seniors programs. Many people like the idea of adopting a kitten or puppy, but don’t feel as taken by adult cats or dogs. Often, this results in pets being returned to their shelters. In many cases, adoption through Seniors for Seniors saves these older pets from euthanasia.
Once adopted, older pets make excellent companions. In addition to being “super loving,” the ASPCA says, “Grownup dogs don’t require the constant monitoring puppies do, leaving you with more freedom to do your own thing.” Purina adds that older dogs provide quiet companionship, and are less stressful than puppies.
Where to Adopt Senior Pets
Seniors for Seniors programs vary by community, such as Seniors for Seniors USA and Senior Dogs 4 Seniors. Some shelters offer discounted adoption fees to seniors.
If you can’t find a dedicated program, start by contacting your local Humane Society or ASPCA chapter. Or, call a veterinarian — animal rescuers bring animals in for testing and spaying or neutering, and the vet’s office can connect you those people as well.
When you own an older pet, you can truly start to understand the expression, “It is greater to give than to receive.” Seniors for Seniors illustrates that the more you give, the more the pet gives back to you. The best part of all? Today might be the perfect day to find an older companion animal to bring into your home.