Can Pet Ownership Improve the Health of Baby Boomers?
As our population ages, health concerns among the Baby Boom generation affect all of us in some way. So what if there was a natural way to help lower blood pressure, increase activity and ward off depression for seniors? There is – pet ownership. That’s right, a number of studies by respected researchers have proved the positive benefits the Boomers derive from the companionship of a pet. That’s why animal rescue shelters across the nation encourage pet adoptions by members of this generation. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Dr. Diane Pomerance, certified grief recovery specialist and author of the new book, “Pet Parenthood: Adopting the Right Animal Companion For You” says the companionship of a pet is a big boost for the Baby Boom generation. “When they feel isolated because their families are far away and they’re all alone, the love and connection they feel with a dog or cat can dramatically change their outlook,” says Dr. Pomerance. “A pet provides a sense of purpose and helps ward off isolation and depression.”
Researchers have discovered a multitude of physical, mental and emotional benefits of pet ownership for seniors. Pets help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and keep seniors more active—whether they have a dog or cat. According to the Pets for the Elderly Foundation, senior pet-owners also take better care of themselves and have 21% fewer visits to the doctor compared to non-pet owners, with shorter hospital stays than the average person. Animal companions can also help them deal with grief and loss, which unfortunately, are common issues for Baby Boomers.
“No one likes talking about death, but the fact is, as we get older and start outliving our friends, our spouses and our siblings, we face tremendous loss and loneliness,” says Pomerance. “The unconditional love of a pet can be a great comfort when you’re grieving and struggling to deal with a roller coaster of emotions.”
While the benefits of pet ownership are indeed great, seniors need to make some careful considerations before heading to a shelter to adopt a pet. Dr. Pomerance has come up with a list of questions they should ask to determine how to choose the best pet for their situation:
1. Do I have enough space for the type of pet I want?
2. Do I want a pet that is full of energy, or one that is mellow?
3. Am I able to take my pet for walks?
4. Do I have time to regularly feed and exercise my animal companion?
5. Can I handle cleaning a litter box or cleaning up after a dog?
6. Is the pet’s temperament suited to mine?
7. Do I understand the costs involved in caring for this pet?
8. If I become seriously ill or die, who will care for my pet?
Pomerance stresses that pet adoption is a lifetime commitment and responsibility that requires much thought and planning. “I strongly encourage Baby Boomers to adopt pets because it helps the person and the pet,” says Dr. Pomerance. “But people need to be fully prepared for what’s truly involved in caring for that animal. That’s why it’s so important to be sure that you choose a pet that’s a good fit for your lifestyle, personality and living arrangements.”
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