Research shows that caring for a pet is a great boost for mental wellness, particularly for aging adults. Being a pet parent gives people a sense of purpose and responsibility, it allows for structure in a daily routine, provides companionship, and helps relieve stress.
An Aging and Mental Health Journal study involved 14 community-dwelling adults over the age of 65 found that pets provided companionship, fostered a sense of purpose and meaning, reduced loneliness, and increased socialization.
Johns Hopkins reported that "84% of post-traumatic stress disorder patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms and 40% were able to decrease their medications."
There's also a physical wellness factor that comes into play when owning a pet. Petting your dog or cat is proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can improve heart health.
With dogs, in particular, the American Heart Association concluded that "dog ownership was associated with a 33% lower risk of death for heart attack survivors living alone and 27% reduced risk of death for stroke survivors living alone, compared to people who did not own a dog."
Additionally, walking your dog provides physical exercise and some natural vitamin D from getting outdoors.