Pets are not just for the young, but also the young at heart.
Studies have proven that independently living older people with pets tend to have better physical health and mental well-being than those who don’t.
“Who can deny that playing with a dog or stroking a cat makes you relax and brightens your day?” says Doctor Deborah Webb of Veterinary Happiness in Redland Bay.
Having a pet can reduce loneliness in anyone living an otherwise solitary lifestyle, but a pet in the home can also result in some surprising benefits such as having a better ability to cope under stressful circumstances, having increased social interactions, and increased physical activity.
Physiologically, we see reduced blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels.
They can also help combat depression, one of the most common medical problems facing the elderly.
“Having a dog, cat, bird or other pet around can provide an excellent source of companionship and purpose for older people who don’t have family or close friends nearby or on a regular basis.
The simple acts of having to get up at regular times, going out to exercise and buying pet food are great for helping keep to a regular routine.
Pets can act as a buffer against social isolation as they are a reason to go out and interact with others” says Dr Webb.
“We have so many excellent pet owners who are living in aged care with their pets, and the bond they have is just so heartwarming to see.
“It's great that science has now proven what we've known all along, pets really are the secret to a happy and healthy life.”
Of course, a pet may not be for everyone, and if you feel an older relative may benefit from having a pet make sure to talk to them before moving ahead.
The responsibility of having a pet as well as the feeding, watering, grooming and exercising that can come along with it may not be for everyone.
Regular veterinary care is also important, and can be difficult for some senior people especially if they are living in aged care and may have limited access to transport.
“We understand that it can be hard for some people to access veterinary care for their pets, which is why we are more than happy to travel to their home if need be.
“This can make the vet visit, which can be a little stressful, much more pleasant for both the owner and the pet”.
If you would like any further advice on what is involved in owning a pet or how it could benefit you or a loved one, or to organise an in home check-up of your pet, please contact Veterinary Happiness Redland Bay on 3206 7911 or go to www.vethappiness.com.au.