Jump to navigation links Jump to main content Jump to footer links
How Pets Can Boost Seniors’ Health & Quality of Life
Elder Care

How Pets Can Boost Seniors’ Health & Quality of Life


The health benefits of pets for seniors include much more than companionship alone. According to research, they can be powerful—even life-changing

A senior’s retirement years can be a treasure trove of precious memories. A time to embrace a new level of personal freedom, spend quality time with the ones they love, and simply enjoy the life they’ve built for themselves.

However, there’s no denying the hardships that come with getting older. The loss of friends and loved ones, having to adjust to physical limitations—these factors alone can make daily life much more challenging.

But for many seniors, the close bond and unconditional love from a pet can make all the difference. Research has shown that the benefits of pets for seniors ripple out to everything including their mental, physical, and emotional health.


Let’s Start With the Heart

Believe it or not, there’s a research-backed link between owning pets and improved heart health in older adults.

In a 2017 review, researchers found that owning and establishing a relationship with a furry friend is associated with:

  • Lower heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Faster recovery from mental stress
  • Improved cardiovascular function (namely with dog owners, due to frequent walks)

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there’s evidence (albeit limited) of a link between dog ownership and lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

With heart disease being the leading cause of death in America, a reduction in these cardiovascular risk factors is nothing to bark at. In fact, in that same statement, the AHA cited research that showed pet ownership is associated with decreased mortality in those with existing cardiovascular disease.


More Physical Activity, Easier ADLs

Activities of daily living, or ADLs, include cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, using the bathroom, and other everyday tasks. 

As we age, declining strength and joint health make ADLs more challenging. But in many cases, regular physical activity can slow this process down, allowing older adults to perform these activities independently for longer.

As it turns out, studies show that pet owners—especially dog owners—are generally much more physically active than non-pet owners. Additionally, a 2016 study from The Gerontologist found that participants who regularly walked their dogs experienced fewer limitations when performing ADLs, lower body mass index, and even fewer visits to the doctor.


Relief From Anxiety & Depression

While the scientific results are mixed, some studies suggest pet ownership is associated with lower levels of depression. 

The benefits of pets for seniors are also evident in animal-assisted therapy (AAT), which involves using pets (typically dogs) to treat symptoms of conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and more. 

Research has shown that it can reduce depression in older adults with dementia, mental illness, those who use wheelchairs or walkers, and those without any cognitive impairments. AAT has also been shown to relieve anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s, patients hospitalized due to heart failure, and long-term care facility residents.


Keep Loneliness at Bay

The social support pets provide is a potent antidote to the loneliness seniors often struggle with. But this support doesn’t just come from having a furry friend around to lounge, play, and bond with. 

Pet-related activities like dog walking are a great way to get out of the house, meet neighbors and fellow pet owners, and make new friends. A study from the University of Calgary found that adults over 50 who frequently walked their dogs had more social interactions and felt more positive about their neighborhoods than those who didn’t own dogs.

But the benefits of pets for seniors don’t all come from man’s best friend. The University of Georgia recently published a study that showed older adults who fostered cats felt significantly less lonely and experienced improved mental health.


Stay Sharp

There’s a fairly strong link between living alone and increased rates of cognitive decline in older adults. However, one of the incredible benefits of pets for seniors is that being a pet owner can actually mitigate this process.

A study published in 2023 established a link between pet ownership and slower rates of decline in verbal cognition, memory, and fluency in older adults who lived alone.


Improved Quality of Life

The love and comfort from a pet or AAT can be a much-needed source of support and purpose for seniors coping with age-related challenges, such as the loss of loved ones, declining mobility, illness, etc.

Research shows that animal interaction and the responsibility of caring for a pet can lead to increased life satisfaction and a reduction in depression in older adults with and without cognitive issues.

Activities like dog walking, feeding, and scooping the litter box not only get older adults up and active, but they also provide a sense of purpose. 

At the end of the day, if they’re dealing with physical pain, grief, or loneliness, their pet will be there to cut through all the noise and ground them in the moment.

Download on Apple Get it on Google Play

Popular Posts

Media Inquiries

Contact us at [email protected].

Protect the people you care for