Pets May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered for Seniors

If you want a simple way to improve the well-being of a senior, you may want to consider getting them a pet. 

Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, believes strongly in the healing power of pets. He feels so strongly about it that he asks his patient's the names of their pets when he is making his rounds at the hospital. 

Owning a pet can provide many health benefits for our older adults.  Research suggests that owning a pet lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.  Dogs are proven to be good companion's and with their relentless excitement to see their owner, as evidenced by tail wagging, is the perfect therapeutic medicine for seniors.

woman with dogBy making the decision to own a dog, our senior citizens are committed to an exercise plan of daily walks around the block.  With a steady walking routine, healthy aging becomes automatic through daily workouts.  Daily walks deliver healthy results.

"Research shows that our desire to connect with our pets can be a valuable asset for those struggling with physical and emotional pain; mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety; and environmental factors, such as loneliness,” says Jennifer Wickham, licensed professional counselor at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Even for those struggling with the Alzheimer's disease, there is good news!  As WebMD reported, “Studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home”, according to Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

An interesting finding in a study developed by the psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University showed pet owners fared much better than non pet owners.  The lead researcher, Allen R. McConnell, PhD, said, “Pet owners had greater self esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.” 

One additional positive feature of owning a dog is the social connection derived from meeting new people during walks or visits to the local dog park.  Sometimes meeting new people can be difficult for our older Americans, however, with a dog on a leash, they become instant ice breakers and make it easier to have conversations with others.

Today, with crime being a challenge, our seniors are victims on many occasions, but having a dog close by can temper the enthusiasm of a burglar.  Those who are considering preying on the elderly will think twice before committing a crime if they hear a dog barking inside of a home.  Safety and protection are possibly the greatest benefit of owning a dog.

With October being Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, this might be the perfect time to explore adopting a new fury four legged friend who just might help you live longer and provide the extra protection that we all need.


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