According to the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Dog comes every 12 years. But at Harrogate, we’re a senior living community that celebrates dogs (and cats and birds too!) all day, every day. It’s easy to see why, since they provide so many doggone health benefits. This article will discuss some of the many reasons we think pet ownership is paws-itively purrfect for older adults.
Health benefits of pets for seniors.
Studies have shown pets can improve physical and emotional well-being by providing opportunities to socialize with others and increasing activity levels. Dog-walking especially (sorry, feline friends) is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits and more frequent exercise.
Specific benefits include:
- Brain Health
Petting an animal raises the level of “feel-good” hormones — serotonin and oxytocin — in our brain, increasing feelings of pleasure, relaxation and calm. At the same time, levels of stress-causing hormones go down, reducing blood cholesterol levels, and the risk of depression and heart disease.
- Physical Health
Getting up to let the cat out (and in, and out, and in again!), playing fetch, or even cleaning out a bunny cage are forms of mild exercise. Walking your dog regularly provides plenty of benefits for your physical health. Plus, you may well live longer and show less mental and physical decline as you age. Having a canine companion has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and most surprisingly, aid survival and recovery from a heart attack. Dog-walking is also a great way to strike up a conversation when neighbors and strangers stop to admire or pat your pooch.
- Emotional Health
Animal companions can help people feel needed, and caring for a pet provides a sense of purpose. If you’re feeling blue, the devotion of a cherished animal can make you feel like you have a friend. Pets don’t care who we are, what we look like or how old we are. Their unconditional love comforts us, and deeply affects our happiness and health.
Best pets for older adults.
Senior living communities typically have a weight limit for dogs (Harrogate’s is 50 pounds). Some of the best small dog breeds for seniors include:
- Shih Tzu
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Boston Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Yorkshire Terrier
Remember, older pets are better than puppies for older adults because they’re typically better trained, housebroken, obey commands and can walk well on a leash. To find a good older pet, start by checking your local animal shelter.
Questions to ask pet-friendly retirement communities.
If you’re considering a retirement community in the Ocean County, New Jersey, area and want to take your pet with you (word around the scratching post is Harrogate is very pet-friendly), here are some questions to ask:
- What are the community’s rules regarding pets?
- What kind of pets are allowed?
- Is there a safe place to take my pet for a walk?
- Is there an enclosed dog park where my pet can play?
- Is the pet area well-lit at night?
- Is there a designated place for my pet to use the bathroom?
- Is there a weight limit for my pet?