16 Jun Four-legged Friends, Happiness and Health
Posted at 15:08h
If you’re in one of the 55 percent of American households with a pet, deciding where to spend your golden years can mean finding the right home for both you and a four-legged friend. Whether retirement has given you the freedom to become a pet owner for the first time or you want to continue a lifelong friendship with furry creatures, owning a pet can boost your mental and even physical health. At The Woodlands at Furman, we encourage residents to bring well-behaved pets with them because of these well-being benefits:
- Pets help you stay connected and on the move. According to a 2017 study in the journal BMC Public Health, owning a dog leads people over the age of 65 to exercise more and with more intensity than they might otherwise. A regular walking schedule can help you stay active, avoid doctor’s visits and even meet new people. Take the friend-finder at the end of your leash to nearby to connect with fellow animal lovers.
- Pets are good for your heart. In a 2013 statement from the American Heart Association, scientists revealed surprising heart health benefits for dog and cat owners. In addition to lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and baseline heart rates, owning a dog or a cat can even improve survival rates after a heart attack.
- Pets help combat depression and loneliness. After losing a spouse to illness or divorce, seniors often find that their pet is a primary source of comfort and companionship. In fact, a 2012 study published in Frontiers of Psychology found that interacting with an animal causes physiological changes that help us feel better. Petting a dog or a cat can release anti-stress and pleasure hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, reduce the production of the “fight-or-flight” hormone cortisol and increase the production of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin.
- Pets provide a sense of purpose. No matter how much or how little you have planned, Fluffy and Rover never take a break from needing your help. Pets add routine and structure to everyday life that many retirees and empty nesters miss after long careers or years of raising children. As a reward for daily feeding, grooming, and exercise, pets offer back unconditional love and loyalty.
If you’re not able to care for your own pet or you’re not ready to invest the time, money, and effort that pet ownership entails, you can still reap the benefits of regular interaction with animals. Family members can bring a pet for a visit, and The Woodlands occasionally has special events like a mobile petting zoo so be aware of the monthly activities calendar. For pet therapy delivered straight to your door at The Woodlands, reach out to local and national volunteer organizations such as SC Dogs Therapy Group, South Carolina K9 Academy, Alliance of Therapy Dogs, The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, and Love on a Leash.