The Benefits of Pets in Retirement

April 17, 2023
couple with australian shepherd

Retirement: What It Means to You

Retirement — to some it’s a word that is music to their ears, a moment they’ve been waiting for years to leap into. And it can certainly be a fantastic new chapter in someone’s life journey as it offers an abundance of the most valuable commodity of all — time. Retirement gives you time to follow new paths that you may not have been able to when you were working.

And while retirement is welcomed by many, some may find it to be a difficult transition. For those who feel they won’t know what to do with themselves without a career, retirement can stir feelings of uncertainty or even bring on anxiety or depression.  Planning ahead and being proactive can help alleviate some of this anxiety.

Spending Time With Pets Enhances Our Lives

Pets enhance our lives in many ways. So, if you’re considering your options and thinking about retirement communities, you might do yourself a favor by choosing a pet friendly retirement community. Let’s take a closer look at how these furry (or scaly) friends truly make our lives better!

Lower Your Risks for Disease

When it comes to health and information on disease prevention, there’s no debating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the most respected institutions in the world. And the CDC has stated studies show that bonding between people and their pets is associated with numerous health benefits that can lower your risks for disease. In regard to wellness, yes, bonding with your pet can actually make you healthier. For example, if you have a pet that you care for and spend time with, studies show that you may see a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, anxiety, and possibly depression, and even a reduction in the symptoms of PTSD.

High blood pressure can cause disease, as can high levels of cholesterol. And anxiety can increase blood pressure significantly, as well as push you toward bad habits that increase your risks for a number of diseases. The good news is that pet owners typically have lower base heart rates and blood pressure overall, and in times of anxiety pet owners who experience an increase in heart rate usually return to normal faster than those who don’t have pets. In essence, if you have a pet that you love and spend quality time with, your body responds well to that interaction and rewards you with an increase in those good health markers and a decrease in the bad ones. But how does this health improvement happen? It’s a combination of mental and physical so let’s consider the ‘how’ a bit deeper.

Pet Ownership Can Increase Physical Activity

Couple walking dog in the woodsStaying active at any age is one of the best ways to decrease your risks for disease, but when you retire it’s perhaps even more important. And having a pet may require you to get up and get moving. While you may not be able to walk your iguana for much physical benefit to your body, and your cat may not respond well to your begging it to join you on an evening walk (though some certainly will), if you’re a dog owner, dogs will certainly ensure you stay active. Therefore, when you’re considering your options for retirement, if you’re thinking about assisted living or 55+ communities, be sure to consider pet friendly retirement communities.

Whether you’re in a pet friendly retirement community or living alone, it’s an indisputable fact that your dog will need to go out a few times a day at minimum to relieve itself, and you’re likely going to go for a walk while this happens. Thus, you’re getting at least a couple minutes of walking multiple times per day and that’s a good step toward improving your health. However, most people who have dogs as pets get even more exercise than that because they spend many hours playing with their dogs, going for runs with them or simply throwing a ball around. Dogs love to play, and when you play with them you’re getting vital health-improving exercise for yourself.

In fact, a 2019 survey conducted by Scientific Reports showed, “The odds of DO (dog owning adults) meeting current physical activity guidelines of 150 mins per week were four times greater than for NDO (non-dog owning adults).” So, if you have a dog, know that you’re getting just as much from them as they are from you. Dogs are good for your physical, and mental health. And if you don’t have a dog, there’s no better time than now to bring one into your life. Call your local animal shelter and rescue a dog this week. By saving their life, you just might be saving your own.

Pets Promote Good Mental Health

While dogs are perhaps one of the best pets to have to get you active and into physical exercise, all pets promote good mental health because when we care for pets we not only lower our stress but we become more social too.

Combating Loneliness

Woman with cat on couchIf you’re living alone in an empty nest, pets are one of the best companions to help decrease loneliness. Many seniors find comfort in their companionship with their dogs and/or cats, especially after they retire, and most pet owners surveyed indicate that their pets keep them from feeling alone. Surveys show people with dogs experience symptoms of depression less frequently than those who don’t have dogs. And research indicates dog owners may feel less isolation in general than their cat-loving contemporaries. But whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, or an iguana person, or whatever, the key takeaway is that companionship with a pet decreases the feeling of loneliness, and that’s worth far more than the price of a few toys, pet food, and trips to the vet.

Increasing Social Interaction

If you’re a dog owner you already know, but if you’re a senior who’s considering taking on a new furry companion you should be aware that dogs lead to social interaction. Invariably, on your morning or evening walks, your dog will want to play or greet another dog, or your dog’s naturally adorable face will garner the praise of a passerby, and just like that, you’re engaging in a friendly conversation with another human. By simply having a dog in your life you’re increasing your social interaction, which is important for retirees. And If you’ve retired from a career then you’ve likely said goodbye to people who you might not be interacting with much at all anymore, so it’s important to meet new people, to be social for happiness and to fight off feelings of isolation which can trigger more serious problems such as anxiety and depression.

It’s All About Good Vibes

You don’t have to be a surfer hanging ten on some gnarly waves at Malibu to enjoy the good vibes; everybody loves good vibes. And pet owners are known to experience more good vibes than those who don’t own pets. A study as reported at the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine stated that a dog owner’s interaction with their dog resulted in increased oxytocin levels and decreased cortisol. Breaking that down… that’s good news for dog lovers, because that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you play with your dog or give him a back rub is likely the increase of oxytocin in your body. And cortisol is released when your body is feeling stress and anxiety, so a decrease in that is absolutely a good thing, indeed. Additionally, pet owners in general report feeling a sense of responsibility and an increase in purpose, meaning they feel useful, and feeling useful is certainly a way to increase your good vibes.

Retirement is Good!

If you’re an older adult considering senior living, including a pet in your life plans is a great idea. Pets bring so much to our lives, from companionship and joy, to increased opportunities for improving our physical and mental health. At The Hampton at Meadows Place we offer premier senior living, assisted living, and memory care in beautiful Meadows Place, TX. We are a pet-friendly retirement community, so Barker McBoxster, Fido, Bela, Max and Milo are welcome. Call us or schedule a visit online and come see all that we offer!

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