Seniors' Guide to Choosing and Caring for Pets
As we age, we have to consider the benefits of pet ownership and how we can best prepare to bring, or keep, a pet in our lives. Pets can be a boon to seniors, bringing companionship and activity. My grandmother is 89 years young and her dog keeps her active and on a schedule. Tally, a tame, but lively English Cocker Spaniel, gives my grandma a routine and a sense of autonomy. By walking her and playing with her, Grandma can keep active physically and mentally, and have companionship during the day.
More Than Friends
According to the American Heart Association, owning a dog can decrease blood pressure and lower the risks of obesity, heart attacks, and stroke. And while dogs were the only pets to show an increase in longevity, cats, birds, even goldfish are still an extra soul in the house to keep you company.
However, there are a lot of factors to consider for anyone who wants a pet, especially seniors. Here are a few to keep in mind if you or your senior loved-ones have pets, or are thinking of getting one. These are not meant to dissuade you from getting a pet, but will help set up a process-of-elimination for what type of pet to get.
For Your Consideration
1) Assess Your Living Situation – Before you adopt, consider whether your home can accommodate a pet. While your home may be set for you and your needs, can it also welcome a companion? Is there any furniture which needs to be anchored or donated to accommodate your new (or old) friend? Do you have a big yard where you can let a big dog go out and release some energy, or do you have a tiny apartment which would be better suited for a small dog or a cat? Also, could your companion be a trip hazard, causing you to have a fall?
2) Consider Your Potential Pet’s Temperament – Assess whether you or your loved one can handle an exuberant puppy, or have the strength or energy to restrain a big dog from jumping on people. Do they have the dexterity to get a frightened cat off a bookshelf? These questions and more factor in to decisions about getting a pet, and how much assistance you may need in taking care of your pet.
3) Think About Lifestyle Changes You May Have To Make – Can you go on a 10-30 minute walk each day to get Fido his exercise? Do you have the flexibility to bend over and scoop a litterbox? Again, these questions can help you decide what type of pet to get and how to best care for them.
4) Could your pet outlive you, and if so, can someone take care of them when you’re gone? – As we age, it becomes more and more possible that our pets will outlive us. My grandparents had a cat when I was a kid named Spooky and he lived to be 22! If my grandma got him now, as a kitten, she would have to make a plan to care for her pet when she passes away. If you’re set on getting a pet that may outlive you, reach out to family members and see if someone is willing to take your pet in once you pass on, The Humane Society has some helpful tips for a plan. Also, determine who will take care of your pet in any event – from a week vacation to emergencies like a long stay in the hospital.
5) With these considerations in mind – look for a pet that fits your needs and adopt them – We recommend choosing from many shelters where pets are desperately looking for a home. A favorite suggestion of mine is to get a senior pet. Senior pets desperately need homes, and they are more stable, likely already housebroken, and make great companions for seniors. But before heading to your local shelter, assess your personal situation with a family member and see which companion is right for you!