Pets Improve Senior Health and Wellness

Categories: General

While we already celebrated “Love Your Pet Day” the week after Valentine’s Day, it’s never too late to honor our four-legged friends by discussing all the wonderful gifts they give us.

We all know that pets can bring joy into one’s life, whether during independent living or any other stage. Their constant companionship, cute quirks and inability to judge (they don’t care if whether one has something in their teeth or snores at night!) makes them nearly impossible not to love. But beyond having something cuddly to cozy up to at night, there are many benefits of pet ownership for seniors in particular.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons Fellowship Square Historic Mesa is pleased to be a pet-friendly community.

The most obvious benefit of pet ownership for seniors might be fending off loneliness. And having a pet can help create structure and routine for seniors as well as encourage them to increase their physical activity through daily dog walks, for example. The physical benefits of a daily walk have been touted again and again, but there is a lot of science that points to additional mental and overall health benefits of owning a pet.

An article on the Mayo Clinic website states that regular brisk walking can

  • improve cardiovascular fitness
  • increase energy levels
  • strengthen bones and muscles
  • reduce stress and tension
  • improve mood, cognition, memory and sleep
  • prevent or manage various conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

The benefits of having a pet to encourage a daily walking habit in the name of better health is summed up right there, and it’s easy to go out for a walk when Arizona senior living provides such great weather. But pet ownership benefits exist even without daily walks. (Although don’t tell Fido that; he loves them!)

An article on quotes psychologist Harold Herzog, who studies the human-animal connection, regarding science-backed benefits of pet ownership including:

  • higher survival rates
  • fewer heart attacks
  • less loneliness
  • better blood pressure
  • better psychological well-being
  • lower rates of depression and stress levels
  • fewer doctor visits
  • increased self-esteem
  • better sleep
  • more physical activity.

Dogs in particular have been found to help reduce death by any cause. That same article touts results of an analysis of almost four million people around the world, not just those who enjoy independent living for seniors. Findings stated dog ownership was associated with a 24 percent reduction in “dying from any cause.” Furthermore, if the person had already suffered a heart attack or stroke, having a dog was even more beneficial; they were 31 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

A article titled “Pets Are Crucial for Older Adults” reports that senior pet owners think so highly of their four-legged companions that they take their pets into consideration when making major life decisions such as moving into a senior living facility. In a survey, senior pet owners reported “unconditional love” to be the most important benefit they receive from pet ownership while other responses included “gives a sense of purpose” and “gives me someone to talk to.”

Further still, an article on the John Hopkins Medicine website shares additional perks of pet ownership. Once again, reduced stress is noted. The article refers to study results: “84 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40 percent were able to decrease their medications.” Author Jeremy Barron, M.D., medical director of the Beacham Center for Geriatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins, also states that petting an animal can help lower blood pressure, lower cortisol and boost oxytocin levels, adding, “It’s relaxing and transcendental.”

Despite the astounding number of studies and research pointing to the tangible benefits of pet ownership, it’s important for independent living seniors to be ready to tackle the challenge of pet parenting! Owning a pet requires daily responsibility...but it’s evident that the effort comes back 10-fold in health benefits for both mind and body.

It’s easy to visit Fellowship Square Historic Mesa and see all the features of this pet-friendly community. Just call 480-436-5122, stop by the southwest corner of Brown & Center in Mesa, or schedule a tour here.

Stay informed on how we're handling COVID-19.