Article from: HealthyPet.com
You’ve probably noticed that when you pet a soft, warm cat or play fetch with a dog whose tail won’t stop wagging, you relax and your heart feels a little warmer. Scientists have noticed the same thing, and they’ve started to explore the complex way animals affect human emotions and physiology. The resulting studies have shown that owning and handling animals significantly benefits health, and not just for the young. In fact, pets may help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May of 1999 demonstrated that independently living seniors that have pets tend to have better physical health and mental wellbeing than those that don’t.
They’re more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. A 1997 study showed that elderly pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure overall than their contemporaries without pets. In fact, an experimental residential home for the elderly called the Eden
Alternative, which is filled with over 100 birds, dogs, and cats and has an outside environment with rabbits and chickens, has experienced a 15 percent lower mortality rate than traditional nursing homes over the past five years.
There are a number of explanations for exactly how pets accomplish all these health benefits. First of all, pets need walking, feeding, grooming, fresh water, and fresh kitty litter, and they encourage lots of playing and petting. All of these activities require some action from owners. Even if it’s just getting up to let a dog out a few times a day or brushing a cat, any activity can benefit the cardiovascular system and help keep joints limber and flexible. Consistently performing this kind of minor exercise can keep pet owners able to carry out the normal activities of daily living. Pets may also aid seniors simply by providing some physical contact. Studies have shown that when people pet animals, their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature decrease–see The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership.