Why are pets good for seniors?

There’s a reason we love pets here at Park Springs––they’re good for our Members! In Independent Living, we welcome cats and dogs of all sizes, even larger dogs. From the walking paths throughout our 61-acre campus to the longer trails right next door at Stone Mountain, we have seen how dogs bring Members together and help them stay active. We’re also delighted by the special bond that our cat community shares, and we love to see the connection and comfort these special animals bring to our Members.

Pet ownership certainly has its benefits. Let’s take a look at five reasons why pets are good for seniors:

1. They provide companionship
Loneliness is one of the most challenging issues for seniors. A pet can provide much-needed love and companionship to their owner. And that could make all the difference in their mental health. A study published in Science magazine showed that when a dog owner looked into his or her pet’s eyes, levels of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” increased in both owner and pet. Researchers also believe that interaction with cats could have a similar effect but it has not yet been studied.

2. They promote an active lifestyle
Staying active is important for seniors, and some pets, especially dogs, provide the motivation to make exercise a daily habit. Rebecca A Johnson, director of the human-animal interaction research center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says, “You need to walk, and so does your dog,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the human-animal interaction research center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s good for both ends of the leash.”

3. They improve health
It’s been scientifically proven that pets improve some of the most common health conditions in seniors. One study shows that owning a cat cuts a person’s risk of having a stroke by more than a third! Another study found that being around animals can decrease levels of cortisol, a hormone activated by stress. It’s also been proven that petting a cat can lower blood pressure.

4. They foster new relationships
People who love pets share a common bond, and that can be the key to meeting people and making new friends. This is especially important for seniors whose once large network of neighbors, friends, and co-workers is a thing of the past. Dogs are especially great conversation starters. As one dog owner explains, “If I saw you walking down the street, I couldn’t comfortably start talking to you if I didn’t know you, but I could if you had a dog. It’s an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

5. They restore purpose and meaning to life
As people grow older and their traditional roles as a parent, professional, or community leader change, they often lose a sense of purpose, which can lead to depression. The responsibility of caring for a pet can bring new purpose and meaning to day-to-day life. And it may even help seniors take better care of themselves. A clinical study published at sciencedirect.com concluded that pet ownership provides cues for self-care activities and that could be of great benefit to seniors.

At Park Springs, helping our Members live happier, healthier lives is our mission and we believe pets are a big part of that. To learn more about Park Springs and our pet policy, contact us today.