Many people think that once they enter their later years it’s not a good idea to keep their pets. But we think pets can continue to make a fantastic companion, whatever your age. There are lots of excellent reasons why pets are a great idea even as you enter your more mature years, writes our sponsor The Medivet Veterinary Partnership.
There are plenty of health benefits to owning a pet, with scientific evidence to suggest they reduce stress levels and blood pressure. Think about how relaxing stroking a purring cat can be – this is scientifically proven to help!
Pets have also been found to help people with Alzheimer’s by reducing anxiety and depression. There are even special projects, such as the Dementia Dog Project, which support people with dementia by providing them with specially trained dementia dogs. For those with less severe cases of dementia, having a normal pet rather than a trained one might be suitable.
Pets also help to keep people active, with dogs requiring walks and other animals needing stimulation and play sessions. Maintaining a sensible amount of activity for as long as possible is a great idea for older people, as once you slow down and stop exercising, it can be difficult to get going again.
Staying aware of a pet’s needs and potential dangers can also help keep a person’s mental faculties sharp and functioning at a high level, and makes excellent mental stimulation.
Many of us are woken up in the morning by an insistent pet demanding breakfast! Although we might groan at the time, it’s this ability to wriggle into our lives that makes a pet such a good companion. They need our care and dedication which, in turn, makes you realise you need to care for yourself too in order to be healthy for them. This often helps people keep to a routine – they have a reason to get up if they need to feed the cat or let the dog out. In short, pets help to give us a purpose.
They can also empower us. Older people could find that they are coddled by others and might feel they are losing their sense of independence. Being able to care for their pet can give them some of this independence back, and allows them to care, instead of being cared for.
Pets also make for great company: non-judgemental, comforting, and an excellent sounding board for problems! They provide unconditional love and a positive up-beat attitude, and mean that you’re never lonely or bored. This really bolsters self-confidence.
Dogs are a social pet – they get you out of the house for walks and are a great icebreaker in encouraging conversation. Many older people often find themselves short of conversation and company at home, so dogs are a great way to meet new people when out and about.
Pets need loving homes:
It’s not just the person who gets something great out of having a pet – the pet does too! With our rescue centres bursting at the seams with unwanted animals, there are a huge number of pets crying out for a loving home. Many of these are older animals, who find themselves dropped for younger, cuter replacements.
It makes perfect sense for an older person to take one of them on; they are likely to be less energetic, do not require training like a young animal would and just need someone to take a chance on them.
We’re not suggesting that everyone should rush out and get a pet! Think realistically about whether you have the time and energy to devote to a pet who needs a loving home.
Top tips for living with your ‘later in life’ pet:
A shocking number of older people have confessed that they’d take steps such as pretending to be in good health, or even consider taking their own lives, to avoid being separated from their pets if they were put into a care home. If someone you know is facing the prospect of moving into a care home and they are distressed at the thought of being separated from their pet, don’t automatically assume that pets aren’t allowed. There’s actually a long list of ‘pet friendly’ care homes here to look into.
Convinced? Want advice on caring for a pet for either you or an older relative? Give your local Medivet practice a call: find them at www.medivet.co.uk