Top 5 Ways Pets Help Seniors in Assisted Living
Pets are part of our families. Pets are wonderful companions that give unconditional love and affection. And for Florida seniors, especially those living in assisted living communities, pets can significantly improve their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the many benefits of pet ownership for seniors in Florida assisted living communities.
Pets and Seniors: Pets are Part of Our Culture
More than 79% of US households own a pet. US families own 69 million pet dogs, 45 million pet cats, and 11 million pet fish.
Seniors grew up surrounded by famous pets in movies and on television. You can’t imagine The Wizard of Oz without Dorothy’s favorite traveling companion, Toto. And we watched TV as the world’s most famous Collie, Lassie, saved Timmy and his friends weekly for an astonishing 591 episodes. And in the late 1950s, the German shepherd Rin Tin Tin was saving Rusty in the wild west each week.
And for cat lovers, there is Salem, the midnight black cat on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Or Sigourney Weaver’s cat Jonesy, one of the few survivors in the movie Alien. Even evil characters love cats. Dr. Evil has the hairless Mr. Bigglesworth in Austin Powers, an homage to the fluffy white Persian cat of the nefarious Ernst Blofeld in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love.
We love our pets. And it is their unconditional love that helps boost seniors emotionally and physically.
How Pets Help Seniors in Assisted Living
1. Pets Make Their Senior Owners Feel Needed
Caring for a living being gives our lives purpose and helps establish a routine that adds structure to our days. That mutual bond can help improve physical and mental health for humans and pets alike. Research shows that more than 75% of pet owners say their animals reduce their stress, and nearly as many say pets give them a sense of purpose.
2. Pets Relieve Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation
Pet ownership can help Florida seniors reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. A pet can provide much-needed emotional support for Florida seniors living in assisted living communities. Research has shown that pet ownership can reduce symptoms of depression and improve mental health among seniors living in Florida assisted living communities.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that pet owners in assisted living facilities reported significantly lower levels of depression and loneliness than non-pet owners.
Pets offer unconditional love and are always there to lend a listening ear or a comforting presence.
The company of a dog or cat helps seniors feel less lonely. Pets provide reassuring nuzzles and emotional support. They are perfect companions for seniors who are in assisted living or living alone and aging in place at home. Research shows that older adults with pets are 36% less likely to report loneliness than those without pets.
3. Increased Social Interaction and Sense of Community
Pets can also help Florida seniors in assisted living communities connect with others and form a sense of community. Most Florida assisted living communities are pet-friendly, and this can foster a sense of community and connectedness among residents.
Seniors who may feel isolated or alone can benefit from the social interaction pets provide. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that dog owners, in particular, had higher levels of social support and interaction than non-dog owners.
4. Better Physical Health through Exercise and Outdoor Activities
Florida seniors with pets, especially dogs, have more opportunities to engage in physical and outdoor activities. Dogs encourage seniors to go for walks and get more exercise. Going for a walk with a dog provides a sense of purpose and structure to seniors’ lives, promoting feelings of well-being and improving overall health and mobility.
Many Florida assisted living communities have pet-friendly outdoor areas where residents can spend time with their pets and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that dog owners walked significantly more than non-dog owners, with an average of 22 more minutes of walking per day.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities. This contributes to seniors’ improved cognitive function and gives them more socializing opportunities. Having a pet is linked to health benefits like decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pet ownership is even associated with reduced feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and PTSD
5. Reduced Stress, Anxiety, and Pain
Pets can help reduce stress and anxiety in Florida seniors. Petting and spending time with pets can release oxytocin, a hormone promoting feelings of relaxation and well-being. For Florida seniors who may be experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety, spending time with a pet can be a helpful way to promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
Pets can provide a sense of routine and structure to seniors’ lives, which can be particularly beneficial for seniors experiencing cognitive decline or other challenges that make it difficult to maintain a daily routine.
More than 70 percent of these older adults said their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms, and 46 percent said their pets help take their minds off their pain.
Are Pets Allowed in Assisted Living?
Every assisted living community also has its policies about having pets. Most not only allow pets but recognize their positive effect on seniors. But those communities that allow pets usually have rules about the number, type, and size of your pets that are permitted. For example, certain breeds of dogs are often not allowed.
Typically assisted living communities allow a cat or a small dog under 50 lbs. They might also allow caged pets such as birds and gerbils. And most communities allow aquariums.
Many communities have a community pet that all residents can share. And most communities allow pets when relatives and friends come to visit.
Asking about pets is one of the seniors’ most common questions when touring a potential assisted living community.
Some other standard pet rules you might expect from assisted living communities include:
- Pet limits per resident
- No undomesticated animals
- No exotic pets
- Pet vaccinations must be up to date
- Pet fees
- Residents must be able to care for pets
- Residents need to have a contact to receive the pet if they are no longer able to care for their pet
If you are considering assisted living and have a loving pet as a part of the family, let us help.
We personally tour all the assisted living communities in our network and are familiar with the staff and all their pet guidelines.
Pets are a vibrant and vital part of our life. And your beloved pet will be part of your new home.
Looking for the best assisted living community for your or your senior loved one’s needs can seem overwhelming.
But helping seniors is all we do.
We work daily with seniors, senior veterans, assisted living communities, home health care, elder care attorneys, hospitals, rehab facilities, financial and real estate professionals, and more.
We are a Florida-based company with expert knowledge of the Florida senior market. We know how to help with the move to assisted living while ensuring a smooth transition into the new community.
Florida Senior Consulting helps seniors decide their next best steps to live their best lives safely and securely.
We have certified staff, professional nurse advocates, and decades of experience in the field.
Senior living should be on your terms, and the choice should always be yours.
Call us, and we will answer all your questions and help you decide what is best for you or your senior loved one.
For peace of mind, call us at (800) 969-7176 or visit FloridaSeniorConsulting.com.
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- Herzog, Hal. “The Impact of Pets on Human Health and Psychological Well-Being: Fact, Fiction, or Hypothesis?” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 20, no. 4, 2011, pp. 236-39. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/0963721411415220.
- Pendry, Patricia, and Nancy Gee. “Human-Animal Interaction and the Workplace.” International Journal of Workplace Health Management, vol. 2, no. 4, 2009, pp. 311-28. Emerald Insight, doi:10.1108/17538350911001024.
- Raina, Parminder, et al. “The Health and Well-Being of Canadian Seniors: A National Seniors Strategy for Canada.” Government of Canada, 2018, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/aging-seniors/frequently-asked-questions/about-seniors-health-issues.html
- Poll: Pets help older adults cope with health issues, get active and connect with others. Science Daily.
- Pet Ownership may Attenuate Loneliness Among Older Adult Primary Care Patients Who Live Alone, Aging Mental Health.
- How to Stay Healthy Around Pets, CDC
- Pet Ownership Statistics 2023, Forbes