A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May, 1999 demonstrated that independently living seniors that have pets tend to have better physical health and mental well being than those who don’t. They’re more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. A 1997 study showed that elderly dog owners had significantly lower blood pressure overall than their contemporaries without them. We have all experienced the joy of a dog wagging his tail when we approach. Having that furry pooch sit down at our feet and nuzzle close to us makes us feel important and needed. These are just simple things that occur on a daily basis. Medical professionals have done research to show that all pets, but especially dogs, have notably positive affects on senior citizens. Scientists have started to explore the complex way animals affect human emotions and physiology. The resulting studies have shown that owning and handling dogs significantly benefits health. In fact, pets may help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.
There are a number of explanations for exactly how dogs accomplish all these health benefits. First of all, dogs need walking, feeding, grooming, fresh water, and they encourage lots of playing and petting. All of these activities require some action from owners. Even if it’s just getting up to let a dog out a few times a day or brushing its hair, or going for a walk, any activity can benefit the cardiovascular system and help keep joints limber and flexible. Consistently performing this kind of minor exercise can keep pet owners able to carry out the normal activities of daily living. Pets may also aid seniors simply by providing some physical contact. Studies have shown that when people pet animals, their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature decrease.
Many benefits of pet ownership are less tangible, though. Pets are an excellent source of companionship, for example. They can act as a support system for older people who don’t have any family or close friends nearby to act as a support system. One recent study showed that people with dogs were better able to remain emotionally stable during crises than those without. Canine companions can also work as a buffer against social isolation. Often the elderly have trouble leaving home, so they don’t have a chance to see many people. Dogs give them a chance to interact. This can help combat depression, one of the most common medical problems facing seniors today. The responsibility of caring for an animal may also give the elderly a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. They also help seniors stick to regular routines of getting up in the morning, buying groceries, and going outside, which help motivate them to eat and sleep regularly and well.
Be sure to read the rest of the article: Dog Ownership & Senior Citizens