As we age, our social networks can shrink, and the risk of isolation and loneliness increases. This is particularly true for senior citizens who may have retired, lost a spouse, or seen their children move away.
One way to combat these negative emotions is by introducing pets into the lives of the elderly. Research has shown that owning pets can have a significant positive effect on mental health and well-being.
Figo explores how pets can benefit the mental health of senior citizens and the aging population. We also delve into the advantages of senior citizens adopting senior pets and provide resources for senior pet rescues.
The benefits of pet parenthood in Senior years
Companionship: The companionship pets provide can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation in seniors. A pet's presence offers unconditional love and a sense of purpose, which can contribute to a happier, more fulfilled life.
Reduced stress and anxiety: Interacting with pets can release endorphins and lower stress hormones, leading to a calming effect. This can help senior citizens manage stress and anxiety more effectively.
Increased social interaction: Owning a pet, particularly a dog, can encourage social interaction with others. Walking a dog in the neighborhood or visiting a dog park can lead to conversations with fellow pet owners, promoting a sense of community and reducing feelings of isolation.
Enhanced cognitive function: Caring for a pet can help keep seniors mentally engaged and cognitively stimulated. This can be particularly helpful for those experiencing mild cognitive decline.
Improving the golden years of both pets and people
Adopting a senior pet can be a mutually beneficial experience for both senior citizens and the animal. Here are a few reasons why adopting a senior pet can be a good idea for older individuals:
Calm and gentle temperament: Senior pets often have a more mellow temperament compared to younger animals. This can be ideal for seniors who may not have the energy to handle an energetic puppy or kitten.
Less training needed: Older pets are typically house-trained and have already learned basic commands. This can make it easier for seniors to care for their new companion without the added stress of training.
Similar energy levels: Seniors may find it easier to keep up with a senior pet, as they often require less exercise than younger animals. This can help seniors maintain an active lifestyle without becoming overwhelmed.
Saving a life: Senior pets are less likely to be adopted and have a higher risk of being euthanized in shelters. By adopting a senior pet, seniors can provide these animals with a loving home while enriching their own lives. It may even give them an added sense of purpose.
Senior pet rescues and resources
If you or a senior citizen you know is considering adopting a senior pet, here are some resources and organizations that specialize in rescuing and rehoming older animals:
Grey Muzzle Organization (https://www.greymuzzle.org): This organization supports senior dog rescue, advocacy, and adoption programs across the United States.
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue (https://www.muttville.org): Based in San Francisco, Muttville is dedicated to rescuing, fostering, and finding homes for senior dogs.
Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary (https://ofsds.org): Located in Tennessee, Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary provides a loving and safe environment for senior dogs to live out their golden years.
Senior Hearts Rescue & Renewal (Senior Hearts Rescue and Renewal - Home): This program aims to pair senior pets with people around the USA through education, rescue, and outreach.
The Senior Dogs Project (http://srdogs.com): The Senior Dogs Project offers resources and information for those interested in adopting senior dogs, as well as a nationwide listing of senior dogs in need of homes.
The mental health benefits of pet ownership for senior citizens are significant. Pets can provide companionship, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote social interaction, all while enhancing cognitive function.
By adopting a senior pet, older individuals can experience these benefits while also providing a loving home for an animal in need. Senior pets often have calm temperaments and require less training, making them an ideal match for the aging population. With resources like the organizations above, it's never been easier to find a senior pet to share the golden years with.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.