Benefits of Adopting a Pet as you Age

by Fit After Fifty
Closeup of a golden retriever being fed by a kid

Adopting a pet later in life might seem like too much of a hassle or responsibility, but studies have shown that adopting a pet as a senior may be beneficial to both your mental and physical health. Pet rescue — especially adopting a senior pet as a senior — is often found to be mutually beneficial and emotionally fulfilling.

Adopt a Senior as a Senior

Senior dogs and cats are oftentimes overlooked at animal shelters, with only 68 percent of senior dogs older than seven getting adopted, and only 60 percent of cats over the age of 18 months finding their forever homes. Adopting a senior pet as a senior may in fact be a great idea. Most senior pets are already spayed or neutered and usually have all of their preliminary shots, so you won’t have to worry about scheduling those basic procedures before settling down with your new animal companion. Senior pets are also typically trained and have a calmer temperament, which means you get to skip the command and potty training, and the hyperactive energy that people who adopt younger animals have to deal with. Additionally, older adults usually have homes that are a bit quieter than those of younger, larger families, which is the perfect environment for an adopted dog or cat to get used to their new home.

Physical Benefits

Adopting a pet can also be greatly beneficial to your physical health. A 2010 study showed that those who adopted shelter dogs were more likely to go out for a walk, and in turn, their walks were longer and at a faster pace than those who walked without dogs. The responsibility for an animal’s well-being could positively affect adults who would not otherwise prioritize exercise in their daily life. The American Heart Association also shows that pet owners have less risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure, and a faster stress recovery time than those without furry friends.

Mental Benefits

In addition to the physical health benefits of rescuing an animal from the shelter, pets can also provide a lot of emotional support through their companionship. For older adults who don’t have a lot of family or friends nearby, having an animal provides opportunities for conversation among other pet lovers, and can connect people to their neighborhood through group walks and pet-centered events. The company of pets has also been known to reduce stress and help with depression, with studies showing that even just petting a dog can reduce the levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and engage the release of endorphins.

Special Programs

Certain programs encourage adults over fifty to adopt senior pets from shelters by waiving or reducing adoption and medical fees. Research humane societies or shelters around your area to see if they provide such a service. For those who live in senior communities, community event planners may be able to schedule the regular visit of rescue dogs and cats for therapy and to bring a smile to residents’ faces.

For loving companionship and a truly unique bond, along with a myriad of health benefits, consider adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or your local humane society.

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