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Seniors & Pets

IN THE July 8 ISSUE

FROM THE 2017 Articles,
andPets
SECTIONS

by National Council for Aging Care

Aging in place is an increasingly popular decision among the elderly in America, and indeed across the world. The ability to stay at home, in a familiar environment, surrounded by the things and people you love brings many seniors a feeling of wellbeing that can’t be matched by even the most comfortable retirement community.

As Age in Place points out, however: “Aging in place is not a magic formula. Rather, it is a choice seniors can make to try to ensure a higher quality of life and to control their circumstances as they age.” In order to do so successfully, you’ll probably need to put in a lot of planning beforehand, especially if you want to stay at home as long as possible.

Wondering where pets come in? Wonder no longer. Dogs, cats, and other animals bring with them a wealth of benefits that make living at home a significantly more feasible proposition. Then the question becomes: Is adoption really right for you? And if so, what’s the best way to approach it for maximum safety and overall happiness for both human and furry friend?dog

Glad you asked. Let’s talk about that.

Pet Adoption: A Better Idea Than You Might Think

Animals have been shown in multiple studies to benefit humans just by spending time with them. The perks go beyond dogs: cats, hamsters and gerbils, rats and ferrets, and even birds have all been shown to bestow their benefits upon humans who enjoy their company.rats

Among the most common of those benefits include: reduced feelings of isolation, increased calmness and less anxiety, a greater sense of purpose, a feeling of being needed, and mitigated feelings of grief that often accompany loss of a spouse or failing health.

In the case of dogs, there are also some powerful physical benefits. For one thing, dogs require exercise, which motivates you to get out of the house and move. This is wonderful for the body as well as the mind and spirit. Movement has even been linked to a reduction in Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, conditions that are often precursors to dementia and memory loss. Dogs also offer protection of the home.

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Rescue dog

Plus, adopting an animal can be a powerful way to do good in your community. Many animals do not have homes, and providing one is a great way to reap the mental and emotional benefits of service.

Animal Companionship as Therapy

Studies have also linked pet ownership with some very specific health benefits, including:
Reductions in heart disease and cancer;
Greater ability to handle life challenges;
Increased opportunity for nonverbal communication;
Mobility help, as in the case of seeing eye dogs;
Reduced incidence of Sundowners Syndrome, in which patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s become disoriented around evening and tend to wander away from home; and
Lower blood pressure and decreased stress.

Animals also provide an excuse to get out and socialize: regular visits to the vet and groomer, pet enthusiast groups, and trips to the pet store all offer seniors an opportunity to get out into the world. This on its own provides significant therapeutic benefits.

Safety and Other Considerations

It’s important to note, however, that there are some considerations when it comes to bringing pets into your home. For one thing, animals are known for being “underfoot,” and may increase the risk of injury due to falls. Bigger dogs especially, who may be wild when on a leash or who may run into you can pose a risk, as can cats or other animals who get in your way when walking.cat

However, not all animals pose such a risk. Some dogs, in fact, are even trained to increase your safety, and can perform feats such as opening doors and dialing 911 to get help.

You should also keep in mind that pets can be expensive. They require trips to the vet for regular checkups, and any necessary treatments or surgeries can add up quick. Food, grooming, and transportation can also add up, as can pet-sitting services if you travel. And you must decide what will happen to the animal if you pass or become unable to provide care. Will they go to a family member, or to a shelter where there’s a chance they will be put down?
Whatever you think might be the best option for you, take your time deciding, and speak with other members of your caregiver team to ensure you make the best choice for your life.

Adoption Alternatives

Of course, adoption isn’t right for everyone. You may be too frail or too unable to take care of a pet, or may not have a fallback plan to provide for the pet if something were to happen to you. In that case, it’s best to make the compassionate choice for the animal and not bring one into your home.

The good news? That doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea of animal companionship entirely; there are many ways to interact with them outside your home. For instance, if you’re still relatively mobile, you might decide to volunteer your time at an animal shelter, where walking smaller dogs and petting cats provides an invaluable therapeutic service to animals that otherwise wouldn’t get enough attention.cat

Many organizations exist that can even bring dogs and cats to you, right inside your home. You’ll get to enjoy a half hour or hour of animal goodness without having to care for them on your own. It’s the best of both worlds!

If you do decide to pursue pet ownership, then great, and congratulations on your decision. You can find out more through contacting local shelters or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or by asking a family member or caretaker to look into it for you. Do so, and you may be able to extend the time you spend at home, as well as your happiness and longevity overall.

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