National Golden Retriever Day. National Love Your Pet Day. National Walking the Dog Day. International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day. These are just some of the official and unofficial pet-related holidays in February. We know that isolation can be a significant issue for older adults, especially now when face-to-face interactions are still limited. This begs the question, could a pet help?
- 86% of older adults surveyed by HomeInstead Senior Care reported feeling lonelier and less happy without pets.
- Pets help create a sense of routine for older adults.
- Pets give older adults a sense of purpose- especially if they live alone (63% of older adults living alone reported this vs. 42% of older adults living with others).
- Pets (especially dogs) can lead to a higher activity level.
- Can lead to a reduction in stress.
- Pets can help older adults deal with negative physical and emotional symptoms, including just taking their mind off their discomfort.
- Many older adult living facilities don’t allow pets (you see places that do allow pets in the Ahead of the Curve Senior Resource Directory).
- Pet accessories (e.g., bowls, toys, etc.) can be trip hazards.
- Walking a dog could be risky if the older adult has limited mobility or balance issues. Bone fractures in adults age 64 and over increased from 1,671 in 2004 to 4,396 in 2017!
- Costs associated with pet ownership (e.g., vet bills, food) could be prohibitive.
- If the older adult is not mobile, it could become difficult to keep up with vet visits or take the pet to the vet if an emergency arises.
- Sanitation could become an issue if the pet has accidents or is not fully vaccinated.
If you want to reap the benefits of a pet without the challenges, there are options!
- Friends’ pets
- If you have a friend or family member with a pet, see if you can visit or if they can bring their pet to see you.
- Therapy dogs
- Therapaws is a great organization that brings therapy dogs to community meeting places like libraries, colleges, and hospitals. Contact Therapaws to find a free therapy dog event in your area. Note: They may be taking a break due to Covid 19.
- Robot pets
- These offer the best of both worlds- a feeling of companionship without having to worry about vet bills, accidents, or having to keep up with their shots.
- In one program out of New York, 70% of participants reported a decrease in isolation after one year of using the robotic pets.
- Unfortunately, there are complaints that robotic pets are either be too simplistic or too expensive. Some models cost as much as $6,000!
Whatever you choose, make sure you weigh all the pros and cons. A pet (real or robotic) is a lifetime commitment.