If you feel like you see more people with pets these days, it’s not just your imagination! In 2023, 66% of households reported owning a pet compared to 56% in 1988 (Forbes). As a senior online and print magazine that covers senior lifestyle tips, we thought it would be fun to share some reasons you might consider joining the 66%. Because, as it turns out, having a pet is rather beneficial for your health. Here are the perks of having a pal with paws:
- Having a pet (particularly a dog) gets you out more. Procrastinating getting in your daily exercise? Well, your dog won’t take no for an answer! He’s ready to go for a long walk. Go get your steps in and show your pet the beauty of where you live–whether that’s a tree-lined neighborhood, a rustic retired community, or a cozy assisted living home. Your pet will make sure you get moving throughout the day–and they might even make it fun!
- Pets help reduce your stress. Sounds too good to be true, right? Actually, studies show that being around animals reduces your cortisol levels (Animal Health Foundation). This is why some universities bring puppies to campus around the time of final exams. Having the chance to pet and interact with an animal during a stressful time can be healing. If you’re feeling stress in your life dealing with insurance, medical issues, relationships, home care, or any number of life’s problems, it might be worth a visit to your local pet store (even just to look!)
- Your pet can help you make new friends. If you’ve ever walked a dog before, you know it’s a wonderful conversation starter. People will stop you in the street and ask for your dog’s name, age, and breed. This can be a good way to get to know other animal lovers. Additionally, if you take your pet to the dog park, you can chat with the other owners about your furry pals while they play. Who knows? Maybe you’ll hit it off with another pet owner and make dog park visits a weekly tradition!
- Having a pet can alleviate anxiety (National Institutes of Health). Some researchers theorize that this is because animals live in a state of mindfulness. They are not caught up in worrying about the future or panicking about their circumstances. They are ready to focus all of their attention and love directly on you. Perhaps being in their presence helps you to channel that mindfulness in your own life.
- Pets can help you age better. A recent study of adults living in long-term care facilities revealed that animal-assisted therapy (basically, regular interaction with animals as a form of therapy) helped reduce symptoms of depression and boosted cognitive function (One Health). It turns out that, in addition to being adorable and getting into all of your balls of yarn, your kitten is actually helping your brain health. Who would have thought?
If you’re not quite ready to make the plunge and purchase a pet of your own, there are still ways to benefit from interactions with animals. You could offer to walk a neighbor’s dog or stop by the pet store sometimes to watch the hamsters play. However, if you’ve thought about buying an animal, there are lots of reasons why it’s a great choice. Not only is owning a pet sure to be a fun adventure—it also means better health, improved happiness, and a friend to stick by you through thick and thin.
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