How are pet companionship and elderly mental health care related? Pets do more than fill your home with joy. They are a crucial part of maintaining health and happiness as people age. Having the companionship of a pet can significantly elevate quality of life for your aging loved one.  

Why Pets Matter in a Senior’s Life?

More and more families are turning to pets as pet companionship in elderly mental health aid is getting increasingly popular. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, 55% of older adults reported having a pet in their household. This is because of the deep emotional connection pets provide. Imagine having a friend who greets you every day with enthusiasm, giving you unconditional love and attention. For more isolated seniors, this simple daily interaction can lead to worthwhile reductions in stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Taking care of a pet can give a senior purpose.

Seniors may live further away from their families; therefore, they usually lack opportunities for physical affection and attention. Pets give this without measure.  


Physical Health Benefits For Pet Owners

Our furry friends don’t help with elderly mental health alone. Pets, dogs especially, naturally promote a more active lifestyle. Daily walks and general pet care increase physical activity, which is most often lacking in the life of an elderly adult. However, walking a pet is something that a senior must take care in doing. Anyone with mobility issues or who is at risk of falling needs assistance. Having a personal caregiver join the senior on daily walks and even hold the leash can make walking a pet safer and more enjoyable.

Pet owners also reportedly have lower blood pressure and improved heart health compared to people in households without pets. This is generally due to the animal’s calming presence and the active lifestyle they promote, as noted earlier.

How Do Pets Change the Brain?

The interaction with pets has been shown to release neurotransmitters needed for feeling peace and happiness in the brain. Serotonin and dopamine levels are unmistakably higher for people who own pets. It is more than obvious how this can be good against depression and anxiety. 

As we’ve progressed, we see how raising awareness about mental health is crucial all year long and not just during May, the Mental Health Month. As a result of this awareness, adopting pets to serve as mental health support is gaining in popularity. The routine of caring for a pet provides comfort and structure, and on top of that, it helps seniors exercise and maintain cognitive function as they age. An activity as simple as a daily walk with a dog, feeding a kitten or petting an animal will keep the mind and body engaged. On walks or in dog parks, dogs are also great conversation-starting help, potentially helping seniors have much-needed interaction with others. 

Pets Also Benefit From This Relationship

Pet ownership benefits not only the humans in the relationship but also the pets involved. Aging loved ones can provide quiet, stable homes that pets love. Even seniors who are living with serious medical conditions and entering hospice care can play some role in caring for a pet, typically with more support from family and friends, and this can help them to see that life continues to have purpose and value.

This is especially evident in the case of older pets, who also need less physical activity and more rest, similar to a human senior. Seniors also have more free time than teenagers or younger adults, and they will most likely offer all that free time to their companion—who loves attention and affection. 


Pet Ownership in Older Age Also Comes With Its Challenges

As amazing as pets are for elderly mental health, ownership in later years is not without its downsides and challenges.

Physical limitations are the number one challenge, as 30% of people aged 65 and above have mobility difficulties. This can make it difficult to perform required pet care activities, like walks and cleaning litter boxes. Caring for a parent with dementia, for example, also complicates things, as a person suffering from this disease can forget altogether that they have a pet that requires care.  

Financial limitations are also a problem for many, as ongoing pet care tends to cost—from the veterinary visits to the good-quality food. The average year of care for a cat costs around $1,170, while for larger dogs, it will cost around $2,000 annually. 

A family caregiver can help with both of these challenges. They can assist with physically demanding tasks or help manage the financial aspects of pet care, ensuring that seniors can continue enjoying the company of their beloved pets. 

Helping Elderly Pet Owners with Home Care Services

Even though these challenges are real and unavoidable for some, there are solutions for seniors to keep their relationship with their pets going. Home care services offer great support, making it possible for a senior loved one to keep their pets, even while their own needs are increasing. Home care services providers can help by:

  • Performing regular household tasks so that seniors can focus more time on their pets
  • Providing companionship and support on a senior’s daily walks
  • Managing vet appointments or reminding the senior to give the pet food and water

Tips For Making Pet Care for Senior Loved Ones Easier

For seniors wanting to remain at home with their beloved pets, there are a few steps that can make the process easier. While this might not be the time in life to bring a new pet home, maintaining an established relationship with an older pet has benefits, and there are ways to make it possible.

Assist the senior in caring for their pet by:

  • Setting up care stations with food, water, and grooming tools in easily accessible places
  • Using pet care services for grooming and veterinary visits
  • Establishing a routine that includes designated times for every step of your pet’s routine
  • Asking family caregivers to commit to providing assistance with pet care needs

Use Pet Companionship in Elderly Mental Health Aid

As you can see, pets and elderly mental health are very much related. The nurturing cycle of care gives seniors joy, purpose, and better health, while pets get care, stability, and a loving home. The benefits far outweigh the challenges of pet ownership  for elderly. For aging loved ones who cannot take care of a pet by themselves, family involvement and professional home care services can help them keep their pets, which provides them benefits no one else can.