by Barry KuKes
According to Seniors Guide, only 41 percent of retired senior couples own a pet versus 78 percent of parents with children at home. Only 29 percent of single seniors have a pet. Many seniors don’t want the responsibility of having a pet during their carefree retirement, or they don’t want to take on the financial responsibility if they are on a fixed income without disposable income. These are good reasons for not wanting to adopt a pet, but there are also some great reasons to adopt a pet.
I have mentioned many of these reasons in previous columns, such as pets can im-prove your physical and mental health. A dog needs to be walked, or at the very least let out into a yard to take care of business a few times a day. Having a reason to get up off the couch is good for seniors. Any form of exercise is beneficial. Muscle mass is critical when it comes to preventing falls and fractures. Of course, make sure you can control your dog on a walk so it doesn’t pull you down during an encounter with the dreaded Mr. Squirrel.
Over and above dogs, other animals like cats, guinea pigs, and ferrets provide seniors with the physical benefit of lower blood pressure.
All animals can improve mental health. Pets depend on their owners for everything, giving a senior a purpose in life. When people must perform a task, they stay healthier than people without any obligations. I can attest to this because I would love to sleep in many mornings, but my dogs need to go out and then eat. I have an obligation to them, which gets me going each morning. Some people might look at an obligation as a task they don’t want to perform. Still, research has proven that having responsibility for a pet decreases the medical problems of seniors.
Other benefits to mental health include having someone or, in this case, something to talk to and reduce loneliness. Talking with your pet is a method of therapy. It’s like talking to a psychiatrist without the $200 charge at the end of the session. You can talk through issues with your dog or cat, and even though they do not offer any solutions, they listen and don’t interrupt you.
Pets can also offer added security to a home. A barking dog can scare off an in-truder, and other animals can alert their owner that there is danger lurking. Thieves don’t like to deal with pets, so instead, they will break into the house next door without the pet.
Seniors who have pets tend to meet more people regularly. When walking their dog or going to a dog park, they will meet and talk with other pet owners. Even seniors with cats may have more visitors who love cats, but they don’t have one of their own. Some seniors need help to care for their cat or dog, and a pet sitter might come by once a day to assist with the pet.
If you are lonely, need to get some exercise, want to share stories without judgment, or just want to feel loved, maybe you should consider adopting a pet. If you are considering a pet, please adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach. He can be reached at 386. 274.4703, ext. 320, or at firstname.lastname@example.org