Pet ownership has several proven benefits for people of all ages, including physical, mental, and emotional aspects. As adults age, the companionship of a pet can continue to improve their overall health and quality of life. Just because a senior moves to an assisted living community, doesn’t mean they can no longer reap the benefits of their furry friends. Many communities recognize the advantages that pets have to their residents. As a result, pet-friendly assisted living communities are popping up nationwide, including Vineyard Bluffton!

Benefits of Pets for Seniors

From medical benefits to social perks, a four-legged friend could be the best medicine for older adults. A few of these benefits are further detailed below.

Companionship and Purpose

Pets provide seniors with both companionship and a sense of purpose. The company of a pet helps seniors feel less alone. This can be especially beneficial to those who have lost a spouse or close friend. Besides the simple presence of a pet, caring for an animal provides purpose for older adults, (especially for solo agers). Knowing that their pet depends on them helps motivate seniors and encourage positivity. 

Improved Mood and Calmness

Pets bring a sense of calmness and can alleviate stress and anxiety for aging adults. People often report being happier in the presence of a pet, and there is science behind their feelings. Touching a furry pet can increase serotonin, a chemical associated with happiness. Additionally, pets help lower cortisol. High levels of cortisol are associated with stress, so pets are a true de-stressor. These benefits are increasingly helpful for seniors who may suffer from depression.  

Staying Social

Pets provide opportunities for seniors to socialize by sparking conversation with others. Social interactions are especially beneficial for adults who have dementia. Additionally, seniors’ interactions with their pets may help manage symptoms of cognitive decline.  

Daily Exercise

An active lifestyle is important for maintaining health at all stages of life. Having a pet to take on walks is a great way to keep seniors active. Research shows that adults in senior living communities who own a dog are more physically active than their dog-less peers. Daily exercise has many advantages for aging adults’ lives. Having a pet to walk may be just the motivation that some seniors need to get moving. 

The Logistics of Pets in Assisted Living

Not all assisted living communities allow pets, and there may be restrictions for those that do. Size, breed, and temperament are often taken into consideration when a resident asks to bring their pet. Community staff must be able to work around the pet effectively. Additionally, pets should be house-trained and up-to-date on vaccinations. 

Current pet owners should carefully consider their decision before bringing their furry companion to an assisted living community. Families should examine the senior’s capabilities and consider the pet’s well-being. Further, owners should have a designated caretaker available in case the resident isn’t able to care for their pet.

Choosing to Adopt a Pet

You may be convinced that your aging loved one could benefit from a pet. However, there are several things to consider before committing to a four-legged friend. First, take into account the cost of pet ownership. Then, carefully choose an animal beginning with some of these considerations:

  • Space requirements: do you have the proper pet accommodations?
  • Age of the pet: adult animals tend to have less energy.
  • Exercise needs: seniors with mobility issues may opt for a cat over a dog.
  • Breeds: check out these suggestions for recommended dog and cat breeds for seniors.

Beyond Pet Ownership

Pet therapy and service animals are additional ways that seniors can enjoy pets in their assisted living communities.

Pet Therapy

If you or your loved one aren’t ready to commit to the responsibilities of owning a pet, pet therapy sessions can still reap the benefits. Pet therapy services such as the Alliance of Therapy Dogs are available nationwide. Local volunteers bring a trained pet to your residence for playing and cuddling sessions. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy are vast and include helping withdrawn seniors better connect to the present.

Service Dogs

Service dogs are trained to perform life-saving tasks, including retrieving medication, providing emotional support, or barking for help. For seniors with disabilities, a service dog may be a great option. Besides the previously mentioned pet benefits, service dogs are extensively trained to remain calm and help their owner at all times.

Pet-Friendly Assisted Living

While owning a pet may not feasible for all aging adults, there are clear benefits of seniors owning pets. Whether you choose a pet for companionship or for life-saving services, furry friends will earn a special place in your heart and likely contribute to healthy aging

Vineyard Bluffton is a proud pet-friendly assisted living community. We allow our residents to have pets as long as they have the capacity to care for them. 

Reach out to your nearest Vineyard community to learn more about our pet-friendly policy.