Pets are interesting creatures. From cats that curl up next to you and dogs that want you to throw that same ball over and over again, to singing canaries and graceful tropical fish swimming around in their tanks, pets are sources of companionship and entertainment for many people. 

The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging reports that 55% of older adults aged 50 – 80 have at least one pet. Seniors who are considering becoming pet owners should think about their needs as they determine the best type of pet for them. For example, a large dog that requires a lot of exercise may not be the best option for those who live in small apartments or have mobility issues, but there are several other dog breeds for seniors that may be more appropriate. If you take the time to select a pet that is a good fit for your lifestyle, you can look forward to many years of fun and companionship with your new friend. 

Several studies have found that seniors can benefit greatly from pet ownership. Below are five benefits of pet ownership that can have a strong impact on seniors’ lives. 

Pets can make great companions.

Pets can be excellent companions for seniors, especially those who live alone. According to Health Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults, a report by DePaul University, having pets can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation that many seniors experience.  

Pets can reduce your stress.

According to a national poll by the University of Michigan, pets can help reduce seniors’ stress levels. Three-quarters of pet owners aged 50 to 80 claim that caring for their pets reduces their stress levels and provides them with a sense of purpose. Researchers from Washington State University found that this stress reduction is noticeable with even as little as 10 minutes of time spent playing with and petting cats or dogs. 

Pets Can Reduce Anxiety and Depression.

Human-animal interaction (HAI) through pet ownership can contribute to a reduction in anxiety and depression for seniors, according to a report by Frontiers in Psychology, published by the National Institutes of Health. This improvement in mental health was also studied in elder-care institutions and assisted living facilities, where seniors experienced reductions in depression and anxiety. 

Pets can improve your physical health and fitness. 

According to a Mayo Clinic study, there is a direct correlation between pet ownership and cardiovascular health. Pet ownership has been connected to lower blood pressure, lower heart rate. Even fish owners can see a reduction in blood pressure and heart rates when watching their fish swim around in their tanks, according to a study by the University of Exeter, Plymouth University, and the National Marine Aquarium. Dog ownership encourages seniors to stay fit and healthy by walking their dogs every day, which can lead to an improvement in their fitness levels overall.  

Pet ownership encourages social integration

Many seniors have retired, so there may be fewer opportunities for frequent social interaction. Being a pet owner encourages social interaction, and this is especially evident with dog ownership because dog owners make trips to the veterinarian, groomer, pet store, or dog parks. Older adults who have other types of pets may have few opportunities for social integration. 

There are many reasons why pets are well-loved members of so many American households, and they provide important benefits to those who have chosen to be pet parents. In addition to being faithful companions, pets can have a huge impact on seniors’ well-being by improving their physical and mental health, decreasing stress, reducing anxiety and depression, and encouraging social integration.