Spending time with pets said to be beneficial for older adults

Panama City Beach has been ranked as a dog-friendly tourist destination. (MGN)
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LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Social isolation has been become more common in Americans with one in five people reporting that they feel lonely, according to Home Instead Senior Care.

The senior care facility says this is even more of an issue for senior citizens with nearly half saying they often feel lonely.

A survey done by Home Instead Inc. found that regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older adults.

“While we recognize that pet ownership isn’t for everyone, we find that interaction with pets, even on a small scale, can have a big impact on older adults,” said Wynn Esterline, senior care expert and owner of the Home Instead Senior Care in East Lansing. “A simple act like petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird can bring so much joy to a senior who may be feeling lonely.”

Additional survey results found that nearly half of older pet owners attributed stress relief, sense of purpose and exercise as leading benefits to owning a pet, according to Home Instead Senior Care.

“There is a strong connection between heart health and pet ownership or interaction,” Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute said. “Pet owners are more likely to get recommended levels of exercise, have lower blood pressure and experience reduced levels of stress. Pets have even been shown to aid in recovery after a heart attack."

Home Instead also found that occasional interactions with pets prove to be beneficial for older adults with survey results indicating that older adults achieved the same positive feelings by spending time with animals owned by family, friends or neighbors.

“This interaction is especially important, as it also provides the opportunity to socialize with other people, further reducing feelings of loneliness,” Esterline said. “Our goal is to keep seniors safe and happy in their own homes for as long as possible and many times that includes helping them with their own pet, taking them to dog parks or visiting pet-friendly businesses to gain that animal interaction they desire.”

“Research also shows animal interaction can help perceptions of pain and discomfort, and improve motivation for treatment protocols for diseases such as cancer by helping individuals feel more focused and positive moving forward,” said Elizabeth Van Every, communications and outreach coordinator for Pet Partners, a nonprofit North American therapy animal organization. “Even interactions for half an hour a week can make a difference.”

To help older adults figure out what type of pet interaction is best for them, Home Instead Senior Care is offering free information and tips. To learn more click here, or contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.

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