Prime Time Living - Page 12 - A pet for all reasons

Prime Time Living
- Page 12
A pet for all reasons
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. – Anatole France

Pets provide companionship, health benefits and unconditional love

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

One great reason to have a pet is when those around you hear you talking to yourself, something we all do but maybe not aloud, they assume you’re talking to your pet. So, it is true. You can fool all the people some of the time.

Aside from having discussions with pets (who rarely answer), there are some great reasons to have them in your life. From a physical, mental and emotional perspective, pets supply the answers to many of our needs as we age.

Pets provide companionship. Rarely, in real life, is love unconditional, but it is with pets. They ask for little – food, water, some exercise and affection. In return, they look up to you and don’t care if you are still wearing your pajamas or didn’t brush your teeth. They also provide a hedge against isolation and loneliness, which can turn into depression, something for which seniors are at risk. It comes down to having someone to share your life. Pets do that well. And they’re pretty unselfish about it.

Pets help you get fitter. There’s a tendency with age to become more sedentary.

But dogs and cats need exercise and they want you to play with them. A dog, for instance, needs to be walked at least twice a day, and you then have to stoop to clean up afterwards (another good exercise).

Cats also like to play, but they’re not good at fetch. They like to bat objects around or chase after toys that look like mice. Pets reduce stress. The sheer joy of having a pet affects you mentally and physically for the better. According to the American Heart Association ( ), “Studies have shown that having a pet can help increase fitness levels, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boost overall happiness and wellbeing. Pets also provide social support, which is an important factor in helping you stick with new healthy habits.” There are not many things that can do all this at one time.

Pets force you to function, to keep to a schedule, to accomplish tasks every day. Since a pet can’t fend for himself (or herself), it’s up to you. You have to feed your pet, clean up after your pet, take your pet to its doctor for checkups, and groom your pet. In return, they’ll cuddle with you, sit next to you or on your lap, or just gaze at you with affection. You know they’re smiling. You can tell.

Pets give you opportunities to be social. They get you outdoors, breathing fresh air, and they break the ice and attract others. You can also take your pet to visit senior living locations and facilities and allow the residents to share the pleasure of being around them. Some hospitals, such as Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital, encourage pet owners to visit. Helping others makes you feel better, too.

Pets can help ease your pain. The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging says, “For those who reported that their health was fair or poor, pet ownership appeared to offer even more benefits. More than 70 percent of these older adults said their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms, and 46 percent said their pets help take their mind off of pain.”

Adopting a Pet

The organizations listed on Page 28 offer a huge selection of animals for adoption. They have all age ranges, breeds and types, so when you visit, take your time

Pets, continued on page 30