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Animal House: Why Seniors Should Have Pets

A. Seaternity
Flicker via Creative Commons
Pets can fill an empty space in the lives of seniors.

Seniors and pets make a potent combination. Just because we're older doesn't mean we can't care for a pet any longer, said Dr. Matt Fraker of the Prairie Oak Veterinary Center.

In fact, pet ownership for seniors is a great idea.

  • Cognitively strong seniors benefit from having pets—and the pets benefit, too. Unconditional love all around can't go wrong.
  • Pets alleviate loneliness and give the elderly a purpose. Adopting from a local animal shelter will give an animal a forever home with someone who needs companionship.
  • Some seniors worry their pet may outlive them and are concerned for its future. Your veterinarian can often help with that, arranging for a new loving home. Family members can also help. Just make advanced arrangements.
  • Dogs can be a positive exercise influence. Petting an animal can lower blood pressure and—bonus—reduce stress levels!
  • There are resources available to help afford a pet, such as Meals on Wheels, which can provide pet food.  
  • The best animals for seniors are just the pet they are attracted to. No need to limit to just small animals. Big dogs with easy going personalities can work. Go with your heart when selecting a pet.
  • One caveat: Parrots might not be a good choice. They outlive EVERYBODY. Seriously, this bird is very long lived and can be a handful to care for, so consider carefully before adding a parrot to a senior lifestyle.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.