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Why pets can make great companions for the elderly

Always happy to see you and excellent listeners, 40% of us in the UK own a pet, and for good reason. Pet ownership offers excellent benefits for the elderly.

Aging can be lonely and an isolating experience. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people over 75 years of age live alone and more than a million say they go over a month without speaking to a close family member or friend. In these circumstances, the elderly are especially vulnerable to feelings of social isolation, depression and loneliness.

 

The health benefits of pet ownership

 

Anyone who has ever owned a pet can testify to what a joy they are. What’s more, the health benefits of pet ownership have been cited for decades. Dogs need walking, which gives you a purpose to get out and about and keeps you more fit and active. Several studies have also shown that dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure than those without a dog, whilst the simple act of petting a cat or dog can have a calming effect.

Cuddling your pet, in the same way as cuddling a human companion, also triggers the release of oxytocin in the brain (otherwise known as the “love hormone”). Oxytocin generates feelings of empathy and trust, as well as inhibits the production of cortisol. High levels of cortisol can result in stress, weight gain, reduced immune function and multiple other problems – definitely something you want to avoid.

 

Pets help combat loneliness

 

For many people, a pet isn’t just a pet - they are their best friend and sole companion. As they are dependent on their owner for survival, many people view their pets with the same affection they would a child. For many elderly people, feeling needed by their pet provides a great sense of purpose that they wouldn’t have otherwise and a good reason to get up every morning.

Who hasn’t talked to their pet every once in a while? Whilst the conversation might be one-sided, talking to your pet helps to keep your social muscles active and your mind engaged. They also provide a constant companion for everyday tasks that could otherwise induce loneliness, like watching TV, mealtimes and bed-times.

All in all, pets make excellent companions for the elderly and can greatly improve quality of life. However, it is also important that the indivudual has the capacity to look after their furry friend and smaller breeds are recommended, as they require less food and exercise. If you are taken ill and require some help around the house and looking after your pet, then Burley's Home Care is happy to provide home care assistance in the South West whenever you need us. Contact us to find out more.

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