Pets have always been important to humans – and when we say “always,” we’re talking tens of thousands of years. But during the last decade, the value placed on our furry friends has skyrocketed, with revenue in the pet industry more than doubling in that time.
One possible explanation? The well-documented benefits of pet ownership. And while pets are good for all ages, the benefits for older adults can be critical when it comes to healthy aging. Here’s why.
- Heart health: From lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels to reduced heart rates during stress, the “pet effect” has been shown in multiple studies to potentially prevent heart disease – one of the top two causes of death in seniors.
- Increased activity: For dog owners, this benefit can be summed up in one word: walkies! One study showed that the odds of dog owners meeting current physical activity guidelines were four times greater than for non-dog owners.
- Reduced pain: Other studies have shown that pets can have a significant effect on the perception of pain, with 34% of senior pet owners in one survey saying that pets take their mind off their pain. There’s also evidence that spending time with pets can increase endorphin levels, the body’s natural painkillers.
- Reduced stress and depression: At its core, pet ownership is about companionship, which in turn has important emotional benefits. One study found pet owners to be 41% less depressed than non-pet owners, and in the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, 79% of senior pet owners claimed that pets reduced their stress.
- Social interaction: Combating loneliness is critical for healthy aging, and pets can help promote that, with recent research showing how pet owners were 60% more likely than those without pets to meet new people in their communities.
- Improved memory: Cognitive decline is one of the most-feared aspects of aging, so it’s good news that pets can help improve memory. In fact, a recent study showed that over a six year period, non-pet owners’ memory and thinking declined more than those who owned pets for longer than five years.
The benefits are clear, but does pet ownership get complicated for seniors who are ready to move from their home to an active adult community? Not if they choose a community like Aspens Senior Living, offering 55+ maintenance-free, luxurious apartment homes that welcome your fur babies with open arms.