Does your client own a dog, cat, bird or fish? Maybe he or she has adopted a more unusual pet such as a lizard. Regardless of the type of animal, you may have observed the positive impact pets have on older adults when it comes to companionship and helping reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. But have you thought about the important role you, as a CAREGiverSM, play in keeping seniors home with their beloved pets?

Pets and Seniors

After all, many seniors wouldn’t be able to take their pet to a care community. By helping older adults remain at home, you are keeping them with their pets who oftentimes become like family members. In fact, Home Instead, Inc., research, found that 70% of North American pet owners surveyed say their pet is a factor in deciding where they will live as they age. A whopping 82 percent will not consider moving to a senior living community without their pet.

Because of the important place animals hold in the lives of seniors, the Home Instead Senior Care network is launching the public education program “Pets and Seniors” this month. Be sure to check out all the resources for this campaign at www.PetsandSeniors.com. Here’s what you’ll find:

Tips on what to consider before adopting a pet, the five best pets for older adults, and 7 ways seniors can still interact with pets if pet ownership isn’t an option.

A “Who’s Your Pet Pal” quiz that will help anyone identify the best type of pet interaction for them, whether it’s owning a pet, volunteering with an animal organization or arranging for a visit from a therapy animal team. Be sure to take the quiz to learn more about these great resources.

Benefits of Pet Ownership

So, what do seniors think about the advantages of pet ownership? The top benefits according to Home Instead Inc., research, are:

  • The company – 82 percent The comfort – 77 percent
  • Unconditional love – 76 percent
  • Entertainment and improved mood – 66 percent Lonelier and less happy without pets – 86 percent Not as physically healthy without pets – 58 percent
  • Furthermore, pet owners who live alone are significantly more likely to report increased benefits of pet ownership when compared to seniors who live with others:
  • Unconditional love – 83 percent Makes me feel loved – 75 percent Gives a sense of purpose – 63 percent
  • Gives me someone to talk to – 61 percent

The Survey Respondents

Home Instead surveyed 1,000 North American seniors age 65 and older, including 400 pet owners, 300 non-pet owners, 300 who don’t own a pet but connect regularly with one, and 300 non-owners who do not interact regularly with a pet.

Research revealed you don’t need to own a pet to interact with one:

55 percent do so at a family member’s home 42 percent at a friend/neighbor’s home

26 percent in their own home 15 percent outside or at a park

It may be no surprise that dogs lead the pack (at 62 percent) when it comes to the type of pet seniors who were surveyed own, followed by cats (55 percent), fish (9 percent), small mammals such as a gerbil (2 percent), and lizard, turtle or other reptile (1 percent).

Statistics aside, a client of a local Home Instead Senior Care office — 88-year-old Mary, who lives alone – summed up best the benefits of pets to seniors when she described the relationship with her pet cat Crystal. “Crystal lets me know what time it is.

She knows when it’s my bedtime and she’ll pester me until I get up and go with her. If she thinks I’m in bed too long, she’ll get me up. She really does keep me from any feelings of loneliness. I always wonder who will be here longer. If it’s me, I’d miss her.

We take it day by day. I just hope she has a long life, even if I can no longer live here.”

If there’s something you’re interested in learning about to enhance your Home Instead journey, email your thoughts to CAREGiversCompanion@homeinstead.com.* We welcome additional feedback or suggestions for this newsletter as well!