Numerous studies have been carried out on the benefits of pet ownership with the most notable benefit being a sense of companionship. Indeed, many people (and not just the elderly) have remarked they’d be lost without their pet with some even saying they wouldn’t have a reason to get up in the morning. How important pets are for older people is evidenced by the existence of charities such as the Cinnamon Trust who help the elderly struggling to care for their pet.
As well as offering a sense of daily responsibility and routine; stroking a pet has even been measured to lower blood pressure and improve emotional health as well as increase fitness and opportunities to socialise with others. But what about older people who do not want the responsibility of a pet or are unable to care for an animal full-time even with help?
Age and infirmity shouldn’t be a barrier
There is no reason why age should become a barrier regarding animal interaction. For those growing older; social circles can become much smaller with spouses and friends passing away. Modern families also tend to be much more dispersed and so it is very easy to feel isolated and miss a sense of companionship. Also, some people, no matter their age, have a strong affinity with animals which does not ease with the passing of time. Even the company of animals on a part-time basis can fill a hole and prevent loneliness; and luckily there are ways to provide this.
Doggy day care
For those not in the position of owning a dog; one option that can be worth exploring is a service called Borrow My Doggy. This platform connects dog owners with trustworthy, local people who would love to take care of their pets in a variety of ways – big or small. Someone may open up their home as an alternative to kennels whilst the owner goes on holiday or the service can be used to arrange walks, “play dates” or overnight stays. This could also be an option for those who live in open-minded residential care homes as well as those receiving domiciliary care at home. Professional care staff are often happy to offer bespoke care including pet care where needed.
Most residential homes offer a diary of scheduled activities and entertainment and many are getting on board regarding “pet therapy”; recognising that visits from friendly dogs and cats, Shetland ponies and even exotic animals, can truly brighten up an elderly person’s day. Some homes will even have a resident cat or budgie. Even an aquarium can provide a beautiful daily focal point and distraction.
Some elderly people, especially those with limited mobility or cognitive decline, will worry they cannot look after an animal as well as they would like. They may be unable to walk a dog or walk very far and it is worth remembering that many live-in care agencies can provide full-time assistance with keeping a pet or facilitating animal therapy of some kind.