Seniors and Pets

“There’s nothing like coming home to my 75-pound Bruce after a long day of volunteering at my church,” said single, 61-year-old Texas native, Evelyn Jones about her 3-foot tall pit bull. “He is truly the light of my day and puts a smile on my face no matter what’s going on in my life.”

Although Jones has owned a pet most of her life, she thought she was done having a pet around when her 7-pound Chihuahua, Macy, was taken from her backyard in 2007. In the same year, she was laid off from her job and realized there was something missing in her life.

“Once I lost so many things that were important to me, I knew I had to do something different,” said Jones who then adopted Bruce from her brother who could no longer give him the attention he needed. “Deciding to own a pet again was the best decision I could’ve ever made. I have hope for myself again.”

Like Jones, many seniors don’t have a life partner in their lives anymore whether it be from divorce or death. Having someone or something in their lives that provide a sense of family and friendship is crucial. And although pets get older, they never grow up. Pets give seniors a sense of responsibility and reason to nurture another being.

Pets also boost physical health. Pet reports that owning a pet increases the chances of survival after a heart attack. Pet ownership can also help reduce blood pressure and help with Alzheimer’s.

In a study of how pet therapy helps patients with dementia, Madeline Vann, MPH, reports several benefits in her article “How Animal Therapy Helps Dementia Patients” published by

  • Reduced agitation. Agitation behaviors, common among dementia patients, are reduced in the presence of a dog.
  • Physical activity. Depending on a patient’s mobility, they may be able to groom the animal, toss a ball, or even go for a short walk.
  • Improved eating. Dementia patients have been shown to eat more following a dog’s visit.
  • Pleasure. Some patients simply enjoy the presence of the dog and its human companion, as well as the tricks therapy dogs can do.

Pets also help reduce stress. In a study of 1,000 non-institutionalized older adult Medicare patients at UCLA, it was concluded that those who owned pets experienced less distress and required fewer visits to their physicians than non-owners (

Pets aren’t the only way seniors can feel emotionally satisfied but because they are more vulnerable to loneliness, owning a pet can be a solution to keeping a senior’s life bright, promising and active.

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