6 Ways Seniors Can Interact With Pets Without Committing to Ownership

Time spent with animals reduces depression, pain and dementia-related agitation.

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- Posted on Jul 25, 2019

A senior woman cuddles a small dog

Edwina Perkins, Donna deNobriga Winningham and Monica Morris found that their family pets brought their senior loved ones comfort, companionship and joy. Research on the websites of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the therapy animal organization Pet Partners supports that spending time with animals gives older adults a physical, emotional and mental boost—reducing depression and pain, enhancing mobility and decreasing dementia-related agitation.

In a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, people 65 and older who regularly interacted with a pet—their own or someone else’s—scored highest on happiness scales and lowest on loneliness scales. Here’s how seniors can enjoy the benefits of pet interaction without the responsibility of ownership:

Hang out at the dog park. You don’t have to own a dog to socialize there. Just introduce yourself to the people and their furry friends.

Visit a cat or dog café. These cafés, where people can cuddle and play with pets looking for a home, are springing up in many large cities.

Foster a pet. Need a short-term animal fix? Try fostering. Pet rescue organizations rely on fosters to provide a temporary home for animals until they are adopted. If you live near a military base, you can offer to care for a pet while its owner is deployed.

Volunteer at an animal group or shelter. Help give pets waiting for homes the feeding, walking and socializing they need. Getting the animals used to people improves their chances of getting adopted.

Get to know your neighbors’ pets. If you see neighbors walking their dogs, why not ask to join them? It’s a good way to get better acquainted with pets and their owners. Once you know them well, you might even be asked to pet-sit.

Connect with a therapy animal. Reach out to a therapy animal group. “Animals alleviate loneliness. Even a weekly half-hour visit can make a difference,” says Elisabeth Van Every, communications and outreach coordinator for Pet Partners. Its therapy teams, made up of a pet owner and the registered animal, offer one-on-one interaction for seniors in hospitals, hospices and other settings. Care community residents can sign up to take a walk with a therapy animal and its handler through Pet Partners’ Walk With Me program. Visit petpartners.org for more information.

To learn more about the connection between seniors and pets, go to petsandseniors.com.

Read more: 3 Pets Who Serve as Caregiving Companions

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