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Getting older isn’t always so easy. Yes, we’re wiser, but it can also be isolating as friends and relatives are no longer around or able to visit. For pets, the experience can also be a lonely one as homeless, aging dogs and cats often spend their lives in shelters, passed over by families in favor of puppies and kittens, or worse – euthanized for lack of space. But what if these pairs could find friendships among one another? It might just brighten the lives of both.
Adopting an animal has been shown to reduce stress, keep you mentally stimulated, and increase social interactions and physical activity. Studies show that people who have pets, have lower blood pressure, need fewer doctor visits and even experience more overall happiness than those who do not. This is good news for all pet lovers, but especially for seniors.
There are seven million Americans over the age of 65 that suffer from depression, and experts believe that much of this is a result of loneliness, particularly for those who have suffered the loss of a spouse or friends. However, adopting a cat or dog may just be the best remedy there is. That’s because according to researchers, the companionship that pets provide helps to ease the isolation that makes disorders like depression worse. It might sound like quite a tall order for a furry friend to fill, but there is much to be said for the soothing cuddle sessions, happiness, and unconditional love that our pets provide. Simply scratching a cat’s ears, or talking to a dog can boost a person’s mood. Frequent exercise from walks and keeping a regular feeding schedule also helps to motivate people to get out of bed each day.
Finding a Loyal Friend for Life
Surveys show the absolute hardest pets to place are older dogs and cats. This is a rather surprising fact since older animals are usually the easiest pets to care for: they are already house trained, know basic commands, and are much more mellow than those that are young and rambunctious. They require a lot less energy and are often wise and loyal companions. For seniors who have adopted older dogs, the experience is just as rewarding for them, as it is for the dog. Here are a few of their stories:
Trinity and James
Take Trinity and James for example, Trinity was an eight-year-old black Labrador-mix when she was rescued. When she arrived at Animal Friends shelter in Pittsburg, Penn., rescuers said that her coat was poor, and she was very thin. Trinity had been living in a house with no gas, heat, or electricity. However, she was the picture of health though when adopted by 92-year-old James Brown. The shelter wrote in a letter to Pets for the Elderly, “when he was told that Trinity’s eyes were not that great; James replied with a smile, ‘We have something in common!'”
Hapoo and His Family
In a rescue by Senior Pets for Senior People, a chunky monkey 12-year-old Chihuahua named Hapoo, who had been living at a vet clinic for a year, found her forever home in the heart of an older gentleman. According to the rescue, the pair take great joy in their daily walks around their senior community and that the sweet, goofy gal loves her new dad. According to Senior Pets for Senior People, “The older gentleman said the minute he met her that she saved his life.”
Walter and Mary
And when Mary Conway met Walter, an older Labrador Retriever with a host of health issues, through the Grey Muzzle Organization, she knew caring for him would be a lot of work, but his unconditional love left her absolutely smitten. She calls Walter an inspiration. “What’s really impressive about Walter is that regardless of what his past life was or what issues he’s had to overcome, it’s like nothing phased him. He was ready to give and receive love from the very minute we met him,” Mary said in a video posted by the organization.
Love Has no Age Boundaries Among Our Four-Legged Friends
Retirement centers, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes are also catching on to the benefits of animals being an important part of their residents’ lives. Just take a look at Mr. Pickles, an older cat who adopted a retirement community. And for seniors who live alone, having a sense of security thanks to a pet is also very comforting. This senior Pit Bull literally saved her elderly guardian’s life when she was robbed on the street in front of her home.
The truth is, whether they’re 7, 10 or 14, older dogs and cats have just as much, if not more, love to give than younger animals. They can have just as much fun too! Just look at these two senior pups enjoying their birthday. Animals prove to us over and over that love is what matters, not age. So why not enjoy the golden years together? Looking for a friend in a senior companion animal? Check out these organizations that match senior pets with older pet parents: Senior Dogs 4 Seniors, Mr. Mo Project, Pets for the Elderly, Purina Shelter Companions, and PAWS’ Seniors for Seniors.
Featured image source: Adam Kazmierski/Getty