By Sari Reis | For Love of Pets
For years, medical professionals have touted the health benefits of pet “guardianship.” Although several of the benefits of caring for companion animals are physical, many are emotional and spiritual as well. The advent of pet therapy, where people take their dogs to retirement homes, hospices, and other care facilities, has proven to be immensely successful as the animals spread warmth, love and joy to the ailing and potentially lonely residents.
It has been scientifically proven that petting or stroking an animal can lower one’s blood pressure and may be responsible for the reduction of anxiety, stress, and depression; conditions many seniors live with on a daily basis. While walking a dog daily provides the benefits of regular exercise, it also gets an otherwise inactive or housebound senior outside into sunshine, fresh air and the opportunity to meet other pet parents.
As we age, our lives go through many changes, both good and bad. Children leaving home, divorce, the death of a spouse and loss of longtime friends, are just a few of the things that can make a senior feel alone and isolated. Added to this, retirement, or loss of livelihood can damage one’s sense of purpose. This is where caring for a pet is helpful. Many seniors have said that caring for their dog or cat is what gets them out of bed in the morning. The unconditional love of a dog can make the difference between a happy and healthy “Golden Age” and a life of quiet despair.
I know as a professional pet sitter, the wet kisses and wagging tails I get whenever I care for someone’s dog make me feel wanted, needed and loved. The purring and gentle heads butts I receive from many of the cats I look after provide the same wonderful and joyful feelings. A day doesn’t go by that one of the pets in my care doesn’t make me laugh out loud with their antics and idiosyncrasies. When a senior lives alone with few contacts, too often this kind of joy is not part of their life. Pets make us feel needed. They give us a purpose and a sense of gratification that other humans cannot provide.
On the flip side of the coin, the animals that are fortunate enough to be homed by a senior, also “luck-in.” Seniors often work from home, work shorter hours or are retired. They are able to offer pets a great deal of time, attention, and presence. With no human children at home, these guardians have a tendency to indulge their furry kids with the best food, treats, toys and lots of love. They are taken to the groomers, the dog park, dog beach and other places they might otherwise not experience.
There is no question that pairing a loving cat or dog with a senior can add enrichment, satisfaction and years to both their lives.
— Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, you can contact her at 760-644-0289 or missionvalleypetsitting.com.