The Power Of Pets

Posted on May 01, 2019.

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Australia has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world and there is a good reason for that. The benefits of owning a pet for elders at home are far-reaching and scientifically proven. From improved physical and mental health to greater social opportunities, there are a long list of reasons to share your life with a furry, feathery or scaly friend – especially as you get older. Let’s look at some of the ways pets can make a positive difference in our lives as we age.

A friend for life

Life can get a little lonely as we age. It can be more difficult to catch up with friends and as time marches on, you may find yourself living alone for the first time in a long time. Pets are a great way to fill that void. They are wonderful listeners, great for cuddling up with in front of the television and dogs in particular will provide you with an unconditional love that is hard to come by.

Staying active

The Health Direct website recommends adults aged 65 or older do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. Walking is great for your heart health and controlling weight gain but it’s also a very effective mood elevator. Owning a dog will give you a very good reason to get out in the fresh air for daily walks and there is nothing like a good walk to improve your general outlook on life.

While not everyone is able to own a dog it’s important to remember that all types of pets require some level of activity. Even small tasks like playing with the cat, feeding the fish or cleaning out the birdcage will keep both your brain and your body active.

Social connections

In our later years, social isolation can creep up on us leading to loneliness and depression. Pets can improve your social life by giving you a reason to connect with others who have similar animals and interests, providing a sense of belonging and involvement. There are many clubs and even social media groups dedicated to various types of pet owners where you can interact with others and learn new tips on caring for your companion.

Walking your dog will give you the opportunity to meet others in your neighbourhood and you will find there are often informal or formal gatherings of dog owners at the local park where you can enjoy a nice chat while the dogs play.

Make the right choice

While the benefits of owning a pet are undeniable, it’s important to ensure you choose a pet that is right for you and your lifestyle. If you live in a high-rise apartment for example, a large breed of dog would not be the best choice and if you suffer from fur-related allergies, perhaps a fish or bird is better for you.

Take some time to do your research, looking at various breeds of animals, their temperament and the level of care they require.

Check out the Seniors for Seniors program, provided by the Shenton Park Dog Refuge in Perth. This program matches a senior person and a senior dog, who are so often abandoned. By adopting a senior dog (aged 7 and over) you will not only be giving that dog a second chance at life but you will most likely have a dog that is already toilet trained, calmer and generally less demanding than a puppy.

If you are not ready to jump into the commitment of owning a pet right away, there are many ways to volunteer your time at dog or cat shelters, where you can still gain many of the same benefits like exercise, social interaction and a sense of purpose. You may even find your friend for life!