Older Adults and Pet Companionship

Pets not only provide companionship, they can boost health in other ways, such as emotional support and increased physical activity. However, older people face many hurdles to pet ownership: they may be worried about the cost, and whether they are physically fit enough to take care of and feed a pet. They may also worry about what might happen to their beloved companion should they become ill or die. Researchers suggest that health professionals and shelter professionals should work together and encourage pet adoption and even “prescribe” the right pet for older adults. This kind of teamwork  and communication may increase the chances for older adults to become pet owners, especially to those who perceive their chronic conditions as a hurdle.

In order to find the perfect dog seniors should go to their local SPCA. the Humane Society or other animal shelter. The staff there can can help you find what dog is just right for YOU, in terms of size, temperament, or breed. Express your desires or concerns over a new pet and let them help you. You may need to come back a few times. Shelters have a constant turnover and get new dogs in regularly.

Caring for a pet can provide older adults with companionship, easing the feelings of stress or loneliness. Pets can provide a routine. The routine of caring for a pet can give structure and purpose to daily life. Having a dog can provide a way to make walking a regular part of your permanent daily plans. Taking your pet to the park, the vet, or on regular errands will get older adults out of the house and into more social situations. 

If you are considering a pet and need financial assistance be sure to check out The Pets for the Elderly Foundation. The Pets for the Elderly Foundation helps pay the fees to participating animal shelters throughout the United States for senior citizens (age 60 and over) who adopt a companion dog or cat from a participating shelter – including pre-adoption veterinary exams and spay/neuter, if part of the adoption fee.

Or check out PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors) from Meals and Wheels and More. PALS provides assistance with food and basic preventative veterinary care for the pets of home bound clients.


By Julia Conlan