For many older people, especially those who live alone, the primary benefit of pet ownership is companionship.
A much-loved animal is an effective antidote to loneliness, which can be one of the most destructive aspects of life as we age. Caring for a pet provides structure to the day: a person needs to get up in the morning to check and feed their pet, and perhaps also to groom or exercise it. Animals also facilitate social contact, whether that be walking a dog, or shopping for pet food, it is easy for neighbours and passers-by to chat with people about their pets.
- Better ADLs (Activities of Daily Living)
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Provides purpose and self-worth
- Mitigates against loneliness
- Less demanding of health services
- Less need of nursing home care
Visit our Research findings page for more facts and figures
One of the most challenging situations facing older people who own pets is when they decide to move into sheltered accommodation or residential care. It is often at this already unsettling time that the issue of pet ownership can become a distressing problem. While some care homes do recognise the benefits of older people owning pets and as a result accept residents’ animals, pet-keeping rules are often drawn up arbitrarily and applied inconsistently. For example, ‘pets allowed’ may in fact mean small, caged animals and exclude dogs and cats – the most commonly owned type of pet. Other homes have a blanket ‘no pets’ policy or possibly worse still, no policy at all. Some may allow pets to visit or have a resident cat or dog. However, although people enjoy these ‘communal’ pets, they cannot replace the special bond an older person will have with their own pet.
Benefits within care facilities:
- Stress reduction
- Improved health
- Fewer prescriptions
- More visitors
- Better relationships
- Lower staff turnover
- Improved communication
- Normalised environment
Visit our resources section to access information on how to find pet-friendly accommodation and guidance for care professionals.