Studies Show Senior Pets Help Older People Stay Healthy

One of the biggest challenges facing Japan is the rate at which people are aging. It's difficult to find a cost-effective solution to keeping seniors healthy and out of state-sanctioned nursing homes for as long as possible. Shinobu Takahashi is advocating for shelters and rescue groups to allow seniors to adopt dogs, particularly elderly dogs who are frequently overlooked due to their age.

Takahashi's no-kill, nonprofit shelter allows retirees to foster aging dogs who are carefully selected to align with their needs and personality.

“Widowed and lonely seniors who had given up on life now have a reason—walking their dogs—to get out of the house again,” says Takahashi. “They have something to talk about, chatting with their neighbors.”

“Seniors are often just existing,” says renowned pet behaviorist Warren Eckstein. “When they get a pet, they come alive. It gives them a reason to get up in the morning, to get dressed and face the day. Once they are outside walking their dog, for example, they meet and converse with others. The pet becomes a catalyst for real conversation instead of always complaining about their joints.”

Research shows that owning a pet improves booth mental and physical health, including lowering blood pressure and stress levels. The CDC also states that people who own pets are often less depressed because they are afforded more social interaction and companionship.

Eckstein suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and says his two adopted dogs are integral to his overall mobility. He also insists that older people make great pet owners because they are more patient, while senior cats and dogs have a calmer disposition than younger animals.

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