Elderly Isolation: Friends with Fur

Mar 02, 2012

Human beings are social creatures. Even when we lived in caves and hunted wooly mammoths, we did it in groups. There always has been, and always will be, strength in numbers.  Social engagement may not necessarily be limited to human interaction - a pet can play a role as well.  As we stated in the last blog post, the elderly have a greater risk for isolation due to mental and physical decline, less active social groups and distressing life events that generally occur in later years. 

Here are some positive aspects of having a pet in the home:

  • Active -- Studies show that elderly people who own pets are more active than those who do not, which suggests that taking care of a “dependent” keeps them engaged and more active.
  • Isolation Buffer -- The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that caring for a dog or cat buffers against isolation and loneliness in the elderly.
  • Self-Worth -- The “caretaking role” involved in pet ownership often provides older people with a sense of purpose and responsibility, boosting their self-worth.
  • Cheer -- The lighthearted interactions with pets -- from playing with and training them to simply petting them -- promote a cheery demeanor and reduces feelings of apathy that often come with old age.

These benefits are especially valuable to elderly individuals whose family and friends don’t live close by. So if think your loved one would enjoy the companionship of a pet, -- and if he or she is able to care for one -- propose the idea. Embrace the benefits of “pet therapy” together!