The importance of animals in the lives of the elderly

No, Gizmo isn't Mom's snack - she's just hitching a ride.
No, Gizmo isn't Mom's snack - she's just hitching a ride. | Source

Pets and the elderly - do they really matter?

If there's anyone who knows about the importance of animal in the lives of the elderly it's me and my 95 year old Mom, Gertie. We currently have 6 dogs, 1 confused cat, and 1 even more confused bird.

Every single day, my Mom comes down the stairs and greets every dog by name. Now, not only is that quite the feat as the dogs are all crowding toward her as they know a meal ticket when they see it, but just remembering their names is mental stimulation for my elderly mother each day. Sure, she might mix up one or two of the littlest dogs but they don't mind and neither do I.

If you don't believe in the importance of animals in the lives of the elderly, read along and let me try to persuade you.

Poor Rita was stuck in the e-collar for 6 weeks but she was pretty content to be in Mom's arms.
Poor Rita was stuck in the e-collar for 6 weeks but she was pretty content to be in Mom's arms. | Source

Letting the elderly help with the dogs

When one of my dogs (wee Rita) had emergency eye surgery, she was in an e-collar for 6 weeks. Mom was absolutely instrumental in helping with Rita's recovery by holding her every day. The two of them dozed off and on together. I never had to worry about where Rita was - she was always content in Mom's arms. What a huge help that was and I could see the joy in Mom's face every time I placed Rita in her arms. No one had to explain the importance of animals in the lives of the elderly to me.


Mom and Rita seem to have their own communication.
Mom and Rita seem to have their own communication. | Source
Gizmo in her convertible garb. She rides in the backseat while Mom, white hair flying, rides in the front.
Gizmo in her convertible garb. She rides in the backseat while Mom, white hair flying, rides in the front. | Source
Mom is always holding one of the little girls in her arms. Here, she and Gizmo are having a little love fest.
Mom is always holding one of the little girls in her arms. Here, she and Gizmo are having a little love fest. | Source
Mom titled this photo "Double header"
Mom titled this photo "Double header" | Source

Pets can relieve tension in the elderly

Studies have shown that just the act of petting a cat or a dog may decrease blood pressure - always a good thing no matter what your age. And, with our 6 dogs at the ready, there's always someone in line to be under Mom's aged hand.

My Mom also gets much joy from watching the dogs interact with each other. We're blessed to have a very balanced pack (I'm a strong alpha to all and, boy, do they know it) so there's very rarely a squabble in the household. Instead, there's a lot of pack sleeping, pack chasing, and playing that keeps Mom in giggles.

The elderly can also reap the benefits of caring for an animal, if the elderly person's condition permits. As we age, it's natural that we lose the ability to perform all of the tasks of our youth - tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or even bathing may have to be done by caregivers but caring for animals is fairly easy. Just the act of filling a food bowl and putting it down for a dog to feed can be gratifying to an elderly person.


Allowing the elderly to keep their pets

There may come a time in an elderly loved one's life when they can no longer stay in their own home. The best thing is to have a relative care for them, hopefully in the elderly person's own home. If that is not a possible choice though, the next best thing is to select a place where the elderly person can take their pet along.

Alway try to accommodate the elderly person's pet in the new living arrangement. It's difficult enough to relocate the elderly without asking that the elderly loved one loses their pet too. If the elderly person is moving in with a caregiver, it might take a while to acclimate the pet to the household but it can be done.

One problem with a senior citizens pet is that the animal might not be well trained as other pets - they might not be fully housebroken or respond to commands. Simply keeping your cool and heading off to a training center will help integrate the dog into the caregiver's home.

There are 6 dogs in that picture, somewhere. The cat ducked out...
There are 6 dogs in that picture, somewhere. The cat ducked out... | Source

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What are your feelings about pets and the elderly? Let em rip! 2 comments

Nancy Hardin 5 years ago

Lori, this is a precious piece of reading! I don't know what I'd do without my little dog on days when I feel lonely or blue. She cheers me right up, and when I sit with her and stroke her head, all is right with the world. Keep your writing going on the elderly...we need a wonderful spokesperson like you. God Bless.


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gottaloveit 5 years ago from MD Author

Thanks so much, Nancy. I don't consider you elderly at all. "Elderly" is as much a state of mind as it is a state of body. You're as young as I am - which, of course, is not all that young.

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