Updated 12/25/2012 01:41 PM
Pet Pointers: Benefits of being a pet parent
The benefits of being a pet parent are well-documented and researchers are still learning more about how our pets are good for us. In this edition of Pet Pointers, Lisa Chelenza looks at how keeping pets as we get older can help us.
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As many as 75 percent of Americans have had animals at some point during their lives, and without them things seem just a little too quiet. Studies show senior citizens living with pets, either on their own or in senior living communities, have better mental and physical health than those that do not.
It’s not uncommon for seniors to experience depression or loneliness. Animals engage people in their surroundings and add a feeling of contentment to daily life. Pets need to be fed, walked and cared for every day, which can give seniors a sense of purpose and help them stay on a schedule.
The benefits to seniors also extend beyond enhancing their mood and can actually help improve their physical health and well being. Research has found that petting animals lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and helps seniors get a better handle on stress.
Animals also need to go out a few times a day, require some regular grooming, and play. These simple physical activities can help to keep joints limber and benefit the cardiovascular system - both important to long term health and happiness.
Pets also help us stay active. Studies show people with dogs do walk more often and longer than people who don’t.