Pets Improve Quality of Life for Seniors

Aug 16th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Research Supports Pets for Seniors

As we senior citizens age, our social environment is an important component of our well-being.  The happier we are socially and with friends, the healthier are our bodies.  Psychological and physical well-being go hand in hand.

Research recently reported adds evidence to the contribution pets make to daily life and living.  The American Psychological Association recently reported on studies in Miami University and St Louis University that revealed the significance of pets on health and happiness of people.  “‘We observed evidence that pet owners fared better (emphasis added), both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions,” said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio. “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.” (APA Report, July 11, 2011).

The attributes identified above (greater self-esteem, physically fit, less lonely, more extroverted, less fearful, less preoccupied)  are especially important for seniors who may experience more social isolation as we age.  If having a pet keeps the elderly in a better place emotionally and psychologically, the option is worth considering.

Pets as Beneficial as Friends

Perhaps most important for many elderly is the finding that pets were as beneficial to the health and well-being of people as friends areFor those of us who are pet-lovers, this is no surprise.  Our pets are our best friends, integral members of our family, and are always a major consideration when any decisions are made regarding daily life.  Although these studies were not isolated to the senior citizen population, the findings are especially significant for seniors who experience social isolation from the natural aging process (e.g., friends die or move to care facilities, families no longer live in close proximity, mobility becomes increasingly limited, etc.)

We encourage readers to peruse the entire report and consider the option for any senior who needs additional social support.  “In summary, pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.” APA Report, July 11, 2011.



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