According to some statistics, the rate of pet ownership stays consistent for people aged 25 to 54 (around percent), but then drops off for older adults (down to 32 percent for people over 65). That may be due to the decreased capacity among some senior citizens. Yet it’s worth noting that having a pet is good for all of us, but perhaps especially so for seniors.
On its website, the National Council for Aging Care cites a 2015 study that claims that spending just 15 minutes with a pet provides a range of health benefits. These include lowered heart rate, stress levels, and blood pressure. Over the long term, being around pets can decrease cholesterol, fight depression, and protect you against stroke and heart disease. So if you’re a senior thinking about getting a pet, here are a few pointers to consider along the way.
Where to Adopt
The best place to adopt a pet from will hinge on a variety of factors, including where you live and what kind of pet you want. Some websites even run on a platform of matching pets with senior citizens or provide incentives for people who adopt a rescue pet. If you are thinking about getting a rescue pet, remember that it might have come from a chaotic or dysfunctional household, and it takes a while to ease it into trusting you. So it might be less stressful to get an elderly pet. You can find a number of programs out there geared toward matching “seniors for seniors.” The idea here is that getting a puppy or a kitten might wear out someone who’s older, and both elderly animal and owner will be moving along the same rhythm. Moreover, senior animals are often trained and calmer, quieter, and gentler than younger pets.
Letting a New Pet Settle in Your Home
Helping your pet feel comfortable in its new digs is pretty much the same for older adults as it is for the rest of us. When you bring your pet home, stay calm. There’s a certain temptation to overwhelm it with affection, but hold off for now. Make sure it’s fully adjusted before you lavish it with nuzzles under the chin. Also, take it from room to room so that it’s familiar with the basic blueprint of its new surroundings. Take it outside, too, so that it gets a hang out of the backyard, (if there is one). Designate a certain area to be its sleeping quarters. That could mean a dog-bed or an especially fluffy pile of pillows that everyone knows is the cat’s domain. What’s important here is that your pet feels like it’s part of the household but can also retreat into its own little nook whenever it needs to sleep or be alone.
Keeping Your Home Safe for a Pet
Since the 1970s, homeownership has undergone a steady trend of bigger houses and smaller lawns. But if you are fortunate enough to have an ample yard, consider installing a fence (even an electric fence) or a dog run in your backyard to give your pet extra room to romp and roam safely. The benefits of having a fence are that it keeps your pets protected from strangers and trespassers. The downsides include the cost to put it up (usually a few thousand dollars) and to maintain it afterward. But whatever you do outside, make sure you pet-proof your home inside, too. That means putting away food left out, storing away cleaning products, taping up wires and computer cords, and always picking up small objects like pins and hair ties. Be sure to declutter your home to minimize the risk of falls, and to make your animal companion as safe as possible.
Seniors who wish to adopt a pet should strongly consider getting an older pet. However, just because the dog or cat you adopt is up in age doesn’t mean it doesn’t require the amount of work. Consider fencing in your yard, give them space, and pet-proof your home. Before long, you and your new companion will become best friends.