Many already know the wonderful effects of having a pet companion. Owning a pet has significant benefits for an individual’s health. Animals have a tendency to love unconditionally, and the love and friendship that radiates from bonding with your pet can not only lower stress but will also draw on your nurturing spirit that can give your level of happiness a boost. Whether you realize it or not, having a pet also promotes balance across multiple dimensions of wellness in your lifestyle. The three most common types of pets among older adults are: dogs, cats and fish.
Dogs need exercise, so playing with them, whether inside or outdoors can increase the flexibility and mobility of the owner. When taking the dog outdoors, you may have the opportunity to meet other neighbors. This will give you the chance to interact and socialize with others in your community. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, the social interaction helps reduce stress levels and prevent isolation.
Dimensions of Wellness Incorporated with Owning a Dog:
- Physical= walking and playing with the dog provides physical activity
- Occupational/Emotional = being a caregiver for a dog provides a sense of purpose and provides companionship
- Social/Intellectual= starting conversations and meeting new friends when walking the dog creates connection
- Environmental = fresh air and spending time outdoors builds in opportunities to connect with nature
Compared to dogs, cats are relatively low maintenance. This is ideal for a senior with limited mobility. Feline friends are more content to stay inside and cuddle. Cuddling, petting, or even listening to a cat’s purr has been shown to help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Dimensions of Wellness Incorporated with Owning a Cat:
- Emotional= having a cat can reduces feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression
- Occupational= owning a cat strikes a healthy balance between caring for your pet and leisurely play
Having fish is very low-maintenance and allergen-free. Decorating your fish tank with items and designs of your liking will make the viewing of the fish more enjoyable. The colors and movement of the animals in the water, combined with the calming environment has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure. This is part of the reason why a lot of doctor’s offices may have an aquarium in the waiting area.
Dimensions of Wellness Incorporated with Owning an Aquarium:
- Occupational= decorating the aquarium can contribute to personal satisfaction and enrichment.
- Emotional/Physical= observing fish reduces blood pressure as well as the stress and anxiety of everyday living.
- Environmental = listening and watching the water, aquarium plants, and fish is a great opportunity to connect with nature from the safety and comfort of home.
No matter what kind of pet, becoming the owner of one can improve overall quality of life and increase physical and emotional health. You will have responsibilities and a set routine to help fight stress, loneliness and depression. Maybe this all sounds great but you are not ready for the commitment of pet ownership. Consider asking a friend, relative or neighbor who has a pet if you can stop by and share a few minutes with their cozy companion.