Sudbury senior care expert says seniors who interact with animals feel less depressed and isolated
A new survey of adults aged 65 and older by Home Instead, Inc. shows that regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The Home Instead survey of pet owners revealed that more than five in six (86 per cent) of survey respondents say they would feel lonelier and less happy without their pet; 58 per cent say they would not be as healthy without their pet; 82 per cent will not consider moving to a senior living community without their pet, and 67 per cent would feel heartbroken if they were unable to keep their pet.
Lisette Wirta, owner of the Home Instead office serving Sudbury and the North, often sees first-hand the benefits pet interaction has on local seniors and their overall well-being. “While we recognize that pet ownership isn’t for everyone, our research indicates that interaction with pets, even on a small scale, can have a big impact on older adults,” said Wirta. “A simple act like petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird can bring so much joy to a senior who may be feeling lonely.”
Additional survey results found that nearly half of older pet owners cited stress relief, sense of purpose and exercise as leading advantages to owning a pet. In addition to providing positive health benefits, pets can also provide constant companionship for older adults who would prefer to age in place.
Seniors don’t have to own a pet to benefit. Pet interactions with family and friends proved just as worthwhile, according to the Home Instead research. Slightly less than half (46 per cent) of seniors who interact regularly with pets would not be as happy if they didn’t interact with a pet, while 40 per cent would feel lonelier and 30 per cent wouldn’t be as physically healthy. Furthermore, those that interact with pets on a regular basis score highest on happiness scales and lowest on loneliness scales.
“This interaction is especially important, as it also provides the opportunity to socialize with other people, further reducing feelings of loneliness,” Wirta said. “Our goal is to keep seniors safe and happy in their own homes for as long as possible, and many times that includes helping them with their own pet, taking them to dog parks or visiting pet-friendly businesses to gain that animal interaction they desire.”
To help older adults determine what type of pet interaction is right for them, Home Instead Senior Care offers free resources and tips to help seniors incorporate animals into their lives. To learn more, visit PetsandSeniors.ca, or contact the Home Instead Senior Care Sudbury office at 705-523-1600.