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Companion Pets and the Elderly 
 
by Mary M. Alward July 06, 2005

Safety and Security

Pets give the elderly a sense of security. Dogs alert them when someone comes to the door. Seniors feel safer answering the door when there is a dog present. Dogs can also alert seniors who are hard of hearing to a ringing telephone or the ringing of a door bell.

Socialization

Dogs are an especially good choice for seniors who need socialization. Seniors who walk their dogs get to know the people in the neighborhood. Animals help break the ice and encourage friendly conversation between people who might otherwise feel they have nothing in common. Seniors need to socialize to maintain good mental health and a pet provides them with stories to share with others.

Staying in Touch with Nature

When people lived in rural areas and were still allowed to keep chickens, ducks and other animals in cities and towns, they were constantly in touch with the natural world. Today’s society is largely urban and industrialized. Animals other than pets can only be found in petting farms and zoos. People have lost contact with nature which is always balm for the soul. Pets help seniors to stay in contact with nature and they fill voids that can otherwise lead to anxiety and depression.

Living for the Moment

Pets live for the moment. They cope with life’s ups and downs and then forget about them. Pets help the elderly to keep focused on the present and keep them in touch with the small pleasures of life. Pets take time to stop and smell the roses everyday. Seniors who have a companion pet tend to do the same. The innocence and trust of a companion pet help seniors to be less cynical toward life and to overcome feelings of isolation and rejection.

Disadvantages of Companion Pets

Pet ownership is not for all seniors. Before a senior adopts a pet into their life, it is important to look at every aspect of how the animal will impact their life. Let’s take a look at the disadvantages of pet ownership.

Costs

Many seniors live on a strict budget and have limited income. It will be very hard for them to incorporate food, grooming and veterinary bills into a budget that is already stretched to the limit. If you are a senior who lives on a scanty income, you may have to re-examine your desire to have a pet as a companion.

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