A trend in pet ownership is that people entering retirement are less than half as likely to own pets as they were earlier in their lives.
There are many contributing reasons for this. Perhaps the original pet-ownership decision was driven by demands from the kids? For some the appeal of freedom and the ability, finally, to take that ‘holiday of a lifetime’ means there is no place for a pet. And for others, no doubt, it’s the fear that their pet may outlive themselves that sways the decision.
But are there some social benefits to pet ownership that many retirees are missing out on? Dr Hannah put her thinking cap on and found a few to mull over.
1. Companionship – sadly the prospect of loss and loneliness increase as we get older. Pets have been shown to help alleviate this feeling. Whether it’s by providing a bridge between the young and old, a reason to get out of bed, or just some much-needed cuddles each day. Pets bond with us and give us unassuming love and attention. They don’t have off days or days where they love us just a little bit. It’s full-on, every day, right when we need it most.
2. Stress Relief – Stress comes in many forms and doesn’t magically vanish when we reach retirement age. Worries over money, isolation, and health concerns…they all add up. But a wagging tail or a smoochy cat curled up on our lap have been shown time and time again to help reduce stress levels.
3. Responsibility – “Retire from work, but not from life.” Once the kids have flown the coop and the daily grind of work is behind you, there are fewer reasons to get out of bed. Pet ownership brings with it some responsibility and a series of tasks to perform. The routine of feeding, cleaning, bathing and grooming are not just great for giving a little structure to the day, but they are also enjoyable bonding activities that bring pets and their owners closer together.
4. Exercise – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and many many more problems are less likely to occur to those who take a small amount of activity each day (whether walking on two or four legs!). So it’s a no-brainer that taking a dog for a walk has some real benefits for both pet and owner!
5. Security – the elderly are often targeted by burglars. But villains have a harder time breaking into a house that has a dog. For one thing, dogs have excellent hearing and will defend their patch noisily. Plus the burglar doesn’t know what size pooch is behind the door, so you don’t need a large, vicious dog to keep safe. Lhasa Apso dogs, for example, make excellent, noisy guard-dogs but are cute as hell too!
6. Social Connection – many of our retired clients attend cat or dog shows. Some do fly-ball or agility classes, and almost all have a group of friends at the dog park. Having a pet means having a shared interest with a large group of local people, providing an excellent opportunity to maintain an active part in a local community.
So there you have it, six reasons why people and animals go well together regardless of age. What are your thoughts? Post them in the comment box below.