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Dog Ownership - A Benefit for Senior Citizen Living

There are a number of benefits of pet ownership for senior citizen living.

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” 
― Dean Koontz, False Memory

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”  ― Doris Day

 

Do you need statistics and studies to tell you what you probably already knew? 

Well, ok… here’s one.  A 1986 study entitled, “How Community-Based Elderly People Perceive Pet Ownership," surveyed attitudes of the elderly on the benefits of pet ownership. 

Results:

  • 95% talk to their pet.
  • 82% report that the pet helps when they feel sad
  • 71% report that the pet helps when they are feeling physically poor.
  • 65% report that touching their pet makes them feel better.
    57% regularly confide in their pet.

The conclusion to this study: “Pets are an integral component of the social support network for many individuals and therefore probably contribute to public health and well-being."

In fact, a 1980 clinical research project at Brooklyn College, New York, studied heart-disease patients after their discharge from the hospital. These researchers concluded: 
"The presence of a pet was the strongest social predictor of survival...not just for lonely or depressed people, but everyone - independent of marital status and access to social support from human beings."

The Journal of American Geriatrics Society, May 1999 reported that independently living seniors who live with pets tend to have better physical health and mental well-being than those that do not.  It was also reported that elderly people with pets arebetter able to remain emotionally stable during a crisis than those without.

Dogs unconditionally provide their humans with love, friendship and affection.  There have been many reports that support the idea that they can do even more than that.  Owning a dog may serve to improve one’s physical and mental health.

Benefits of pet ownership for the elderly may include:

1) Lowering blood pressure and pulse rate
2) Fewer visits to the doctor
3) Less depression
4) Easier to make friends (enhanced social opportunities)
5) Seniors become more active
6) Pets offer affection and unconditional love
7) Pets ease loss of a loved one
8) Pets fight loneliness
9) Seniors take better care of themselves
10) Sense of security

In addition, dogs may provide companionship, exercise, stress reduction, lower cholesterol levels, resilience and mental stimulation.  The feeling of responsibility many elderly people have towards their pets, as well as the everyday companionship they provide, has been reported to make people feel more hopeful about their lives and future.

 Pets provide other intangibles. "Dogs—and other pets—live very much in the here and now. They don't worry about tomorrow. And tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. By having an animal with that sense of now, it tends to rub off on people," says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey psychotherapist.

 In conclusion, we can only echo the sentiments of these wise folks:

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.” 
― Milan Kundera

 “The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” 
― Johnny Depp

Resources: 

Elder Care ABC

Aging Care

Alzheimer's Association

Pets for the Elderly

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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