Loneliness in seniors is on the rise. One in five Americans say that they feel lonely and nearly half of our seniors say they often feel lonely. Loneliness can affect you physically and mentally. According to a new study of social isolation published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in May, loneliness doesn’t just affect your moods. It can affect your health and especially your heart.
But here’s the good news. A new survey by Home Instead, Inc. says that regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Researchers found that petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird can brighten up the mood of a lonely senior.
How Pets Help with Loneliness in Seniors
Spending time with a pet releases endorphins. Endorphins have a calming effect and reduce levels of stress. This is especially good for patients who suffer from dementia. Dementia patients can become stressed when they are unable to communicate with people or are unable to express their ideas or feelings. Having pets around allows them to bond with animals without relying on any language.
Spending time with pets gives seniors a sense of purpose and boosts their self-confidence and improves self-esteem. Seniors feel independent and happily take on the responsibility of owning a pet.
Seniors who own pets are more likely to get recommended levels of exercise. As a result, they have lower blood pressure and less stress. Exercise also improves motor skills and reduces the risk of joint stiffness, falls and pain. Seniors with arthritis especially benefit from petting an animal. Seniors with a risk of heart disease also benefit from spending time with a pet, because this positively spent time helps to lower blood pressure levels. Interacting with animals actually lessens the perception of pain and discomfort.
The chance to socialize with other people
Not everyone wants to own a pet. But don’t worry: seniors experience the same positive feelings even when they visit with pets owned by family, friends or neighbors. Even interactions for half an hour a week can make a difference.