It’s a known fact that dogs are more than a man’s best friend. Research shows that companion animals can help improve the physical and mental health of the elderly. Senior dog owners are likely to be more active as they have to take their dog for a walk. Depression seems to occur less with elderly pet owners as they have a reason to get up in the morning. A dog can prevent loneliness especially for seniors who have recently lost a spouse. Elderly people who walk their dogs are more likely to strike up a conversation with their neighbors than those that walk without a dog. Many studies have proven that having a pet can reduce blood pressure and stress hormones. Some believe that the reduction of blood pressure achieved through dog ownership is equal to the reduction of alcohol or improvement of a healthy diet.
Today dogs are providing more than companionship to senior citizens. Many reports have been forthcoming proving that a dog can cause fewer anxious outbursts to Alzheimer patients. In fact research is being done to show that the routine and responsibility of owning a dog helps slow the onset of early Alzheimer symptoms.
If there is such a benefit to seniors to be dog owners why are so many without? Dog ownership has a lot of responsibility and cost which can burden the owner. Many seniors are worried about what would happen to their pet if they become ill for a long period of time. What about those who love to travel? Having to put a dog in a kennel can be very stressful and expensive. Other concerns such as grooming or vet care present obstacles for the elderly especially if they no longer drive.
Luckily today many organizations have seen the benefits of dog ownership and are helping more seniors to achieve it by taking away some of the obstacles they may face. Petfinder is one of those organizations. Petfinder goes way beyond helping to match the right pet with the right person. They provide many services to make it possible for a senior to adopt a dog and care for it. Their resources are many starting from helping financially needy seniors by discounting adoption fees. They also provide collars, leashes and food. They make sure the dog is spayed or neutered and all vaccinations are given at no cost to the dog owner. If needed, Petfinder will find volunteers to take an owner’s dog to a vet or to drop off food at their home. If a pet owner needs to spend time in a hospital or nursing home they will take care of your pet at no charge until you are able to. Petfinder can be contacted at www.petfinder.com.
Another organization that can help seniors become pet owners is the Seniors for Seniors program by PAWS. PAWS helps match older dogs with seniors as they generally make a more suitable match. Senior dogs are usually calmer, tend to be lap dogs and often already trained. PAWS also provides services if you become ill and unable to take care of your pet. The Paws website is www.paws.org.
If you are interested in adopting a pet but are concerned about the financial aspect please check out the following organizations. Pets for the Elderly Foundation provide fees to animal shelters for seniors over 60 to pay for adoption fees, vet fees and spay/neuter fees. Thankful Paws is a mobile pet food bank that can deliver dog food right to your home. You can access an application for mobile pet food at www.thankfulpaws.org.
Today this article focused on the benefits of dog ownership for seniors. Dogs have been helping all kinds of disabled people to live a better more independent life. There are therapy dogs which help the blind, the deaf, those with seizures, and those that are diabetic. Now therapy dogs have been shown to help children with autism. My next article will focus more on therapy dogs and resources to find the right companion for you.