March 24 was National Puppy Day and to celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of the positive benefits of pet ownership for older adults.
Pets Can Lower the Risk of Heart Disease Research has shown that interaction with pets can lower blood pressure. Pet owners tend to have lower cholesterol levels than non-pet owners. In fact, researchers say the physiological impact of owning a pet is similar to a person changing his diet to include less salt and alcohol. These positive effects are complemented by the increase in exercise and mobility pet ownership usually brings about. According to the American Heart Association, pet owners who suffer heart attacks have a higher survival rate than patients who don’t own pets.
Pets Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety Research has shown that spending time with pets relaxes both the body and mind. Playing with a pet or even watching others interact with pets releases serotonin and dopamine – the body’s natural anti-depressants. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that senior pet owners show fewer signs of depression.
Pets Keep Seniors Connected Not only do pets offer valuable companionship for elderly people living alone, but pets also make it easier for seniors to connect to other people. Pet owners are more likely to come in contact with people outside the home – for instance on walks, at a dog park, or the veterinarian’s office.
Pets Can Improve Overall Health and Wellbeing A survey by Medicare revealed that pet owners logged 21 percent fewer doctor visits than those without pets. Pet owners also take fewer medications than non-pet owners and stay more active. A study of nursing homes in New York, Texas, and Missouri that include pets as part of their therapy found that medication costs were cut in half after integrating animals into the facility community.
For information on adopting a pet, contact the Nashville Humane Society at (615) 352-1010 or visit nashvillehumane.org.