Benefits of owning a pet for over 50s

Australians is one of the most pet-loving nations in the world, with around 62% of households owning a domestic pet. In fact, there are more pets in Australia than there are owners, which shows that many families are opting to own multiple pets.1

From reducing heart disease to improving mood and wellbeing, there are plenty of scientifically proven ways a pet can improve your general wellbeing. Here’s a list of some of the great benefits you can look forward to when owning a cat or dog.

The health benefits of owning a pet

Pets reduce your risk of heart disease

Exercise, healthy diet and medication are common treatments to keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control. However, research2 has confirmed a link between reduced risk of heart disease and pet ownership.

Baker Medical Research Institution in Melbourne conducted a study of 5,741 people over a three-year period. They discovered lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in pet owners than in those who do not own pets, even after accounting for personal factors such as diet, weight and smoking status.2

You might put this down to the fact pet owners are generally more active, and their improved heart health is owed to their increased exercise. But the research demonstrates pet owners also drank more alcohol and ordered take-out food more regularly than people who did not own pets – and they still had lower cholesterol despite these factors.

Pets improve communication

Pets provide an opportunity for non-verbal communication that can help engage those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

A recent study conducted in Germany3 involved dogs visiting 17 nursing home residents suffering from dementia. The study found the participants who took part in the animal assisted therapy sessions had improved verbal communication function and greater attentiveness after the completion of the program.

A separate study at the University of Michigan4 found pets are capable of generating social responses from those suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, even where sufferers did not respond to human interaction.

Pets reduce visits to the doctor

Research5 at the University of California at Los Angeles demonstrated older pet-owners visit the doctor less regularly than those without pets.

It is unclear whether this is because of overall improvements to health resulting from pet ownership or reduced loneliness, or a combination of both. Either way, the science shows pet ownership may be an effective low-cost health boost.6

Pets improve mood

Changes in personal circumstances, side effects of medication, and lifestyle changes can all result in feeling less connected, especially as you get older.7 The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to stay positive, including turning to your trusted pet.

A study8 on the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy measured wellbeing and mood in nursing home residents. The group who had spent time with animals reported feeling ‘enthusiastic’, ‘interested’ and ‘inspired’ significantly more than those who did not spend time with pets.

Pets help people socialise

Having a pet is a big responsibility and will involve making some changes to your daily routine. Many of these changes can create more opportunities to socialise and stay active. Walking your dog allows you to interact with others around your neighbourhood. Pet clubs and meet-ups are another great way to find people with common interests.

A study8 of the effects of dog interaction on sociability of seniors in a hospice found those who spent time with a dog spent less time alone than before the dog was introduced.

Pets keep you moving

Having a dog that requires walking will inevitably increase activity levels, but even house-bound pets such as cats, birds, or fish, require feeding and petting, which helps owners maintain mobility and stay active as they get older. A Canadian study8 of over 65-year-olds demonstrated pet owners are more likely to maintain ‘activities of daily living’.

Protecting the pets that protect your health

If you’re eager to experience the health benefits of owning a pet, it’s important to ensure you’re prepared for the added responsibility that comes with caring for them. While you may have factored in everyday finances such as food and toys, even simple veterinary procedures can cost you thousands of dollars should your beloved pet fall ill.

That’s why Seniors Pet Insurance covers you for many common injuries or illnesses your cat or dog is likely to face, with up to 80% of eligible vet bills reimbursed*. This ensures you can provide your pet with the care they deserve and continue to experience the comforting benefits they have to offer.