The unconditional love of a pet may contribute more to your health than you realize. While aging can impact your physical ability to care for an animal, there are some real emotional benefits to that human-animal bond, or the “humanimality”. You may have to give up that morning run with your German Shepherd, but a lap cat or lazy Llasa Apso may be just what the doctor ordered. Here are just a few reasons:
Meet New People
Pet owners tend to bond over their love of animals. Whether it’s a walk with your neighbors and their dogs, a fundraiser for your favorite animal welfare organization, or just a chance to show off photos of your new dog or cat, the shared interest can help you meet new people and make new friends. A 2016 article printed in Science Daily cites research done by University of Missouri Health shows pet walking provides a significant means to socialize with pet owners and others in your community.
Routines are Good
While you might not work that 9 – 5 job anymore, pets help us maintain some sort of schedule. Having a reason to set the alarm and get out of bed, particularly as you get older, can be healthy. Most pets will let you get in an afternoon nap if you want, and many will even snuggle with you if they’re invited.
A Reason to Exercise
Fido needs to get outside a few times each day so make one of those a short walk around the block. It’ll strengthen your bond with your pup and enrich your pup’s life by exposing him to more smells. Plus, it’ll help you put one foot in front of the other with purpose. Slow speed, of course, to let him sniff every few steps. A study published in 2016 in The Geronotologist found that walking a dog can result in fewer visits to the doctor and a lower body mass index. That research also indicates that the deeper the bond is between you and your pet, the more beneficial that animal may be to your health.
And whether you have a dog or cat you’ll need to clean up after your pet. Think of each bend and scoop as a step toward improved flexibility!
The kids are all grown up and your spouse or partner may have passed away, but that’s no reason to be alone. Pets can make the perfect companions! The sound of your cat purring or the sight of your pup’s tail wagging can trigger a smile and provide instant stress relief and companionship. Research shared in 2017 by the Journal of Mind and Sciences found that the companionship of a pet can provide non-human social support and satisfy some social need in older adults. The right pet can be prescription to ease the depression and loneliness that can set in as you age.
Sense of Purpose
As your children grow up and begin their own lives, they become independent, no longer relying on you to provide care. For some seniors, that feeling of not being needed can lead to isolation. Bringing a pet into your life can quickly ease feelings of not being needed and bring a sense of purpose back into your life. Your new dog or cat will rely on you for just about everything!
If you’re concerned about your pet outliving you, there are ways to continue providing care for the animal through your estate. You can consult with an attorney about a traditional pet trust or look into SPCA Tampa Bay’s Legacy of Love Pooled Pet Trust, which helps you set your pet up as the beneficiary of a trust account. Learn more at www.spcatampabay.org/planning-for-your-pet.
About The Author: Jennifer Gross, CFRE, is the Director of Philanthropy at SPCA Tampa Bay. She partners with people to make a difference in the lives of all animals in our community, through annual, planned and capital giving opportunities.