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What Are the Health Benefits of Owning a Pet Over 60?

By Elise Christian July 10, 2020 Lifestyle

The unique bond between human and animal can be incredibly strong, and while we take care of our pets, they often take care of us too! Pets are comfort us when we’re sad, keep us company when we’re lonely, and love us unconditionally.

If you’re an animal lover, then you might already have a furry friend or two at home. But if you don’t and are considering welcoming one into your home, then it might help to take a closer look at some of the mental and physical health benefits of owning a pet later in life.

They Keep Loneliness at Bay

You can feel lonely for a host of different reasons. Perhaps you live alone, work a different shift pattern to your partner, or your friends and family live too far for you to see them regularly. Whatever your reason for feeling that you’re in need of a bit of company, pets make great companions.

Dogs and cats especially are incredibly loyal and will love you on your best and worst days. It’s hard not to find your smile again when you come through the front door to a happy wagging tail who is so excited that you’re back! Dogs and cats are also great snugglers, so if you’re in need of a bit of affection, then it won’t be in short supply.

They Keep You Active

Dogs need 1­­–2 walks a day if they are to stay happy and healthy. If you’ve struggled to feel motivated to exercise before, then becoming a dog owner is a sure way to get you up and moving.

Even the word “walk” can be enough to send a dog into an excited frenzy, and it can be a great feeling to see them bouncing around the park having fun. You’ll be racking up the miles before you know it.

They Can Help You Make New Friends

Having a pet is a conversation starter and there are communities full of people who have come together because of their love of dogs, cats, birds, or something else entirely.

Sometimes these relationships or communities happen naturally. For example, when you’re out for a walk with your dog, you might get chatting to other dog walkers, who become regular faces, and eventually friends.

People also join Facebook groups or meetup groups driven by their love for their pet. For example, you could join a Cockapoo meetup club, or a group of people who share tips and tricks on how best to care for their reptiles.

It’s much easier to make friends when you have some common ground, and chances are, your pet will get to make some new pals too.

They’ve Been Known to Detect Cancer Early

Dogs have a particularly strong sense of smell, which enables them to detect cancer in people. Cancer cells give off a scent that we as humans cannot smell, but dogs can. This is because they have over 300 million smell receptors in their noses, compared with our six million.

It’s believed (depending on the type of cancer) that dogs can detect the scent emitted by cancer cells on a person’s breath or skin – or in their sweat, faeces and/or urine. Many dog owners have reported that their dog caught their cancer early when they began pawing, licking, or sniffing the area where a tumour was hidden beneath the skin.

They Can Lower Your Stress Levels

The hustle and bustle of everyday life can bring on feelings of stress and anxiety, but owning a pet can help to reduce these feelings. When you’re stroking your cat, having a cuddle with your dog, or just watching your hamster run on its wheel tension and negative thoughts can ebb away.

Studies have shown that playing with a dog or cat can raise levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain (the hormones which help us to feel calmer and more relaxed). It’s also been suggested that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression and high blood pressure than those who don’t own pets.

They Can Make You Feel Safe

We can often feel much more vulnerable when we’re alone, but having a pet – particularly a dog – can help us to feel more secure. Dogs can alert their owners to disturbances by barking, and many burglars back off from houses where a dog is clearly resident.

Some breeds are known for their loyalty and guarding skills and will also look out for you when you’re walking around or out for a run – alerting you to any danger that comes your way.

Alternative Options

While there are numerous benefits to owning a pet, it’s understandable that there may be reasons why you simply can’t bring one into your home. For example, not having permission from your landlord or living with someone who isn’t so keen on animals.

If this is the case and you really love animals, then consider looking into the different ways you could work or volunteer with animals instead.

Are you thinking about getting a pet? What kind would make the perfect pet for you? Why do you want to have a pet? Will it be your first one? Please share with our community!

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The Author

Elise Christian works at Rest Less UK: a place dedicated to inspiring and empowering people over 50 to make the most of the next chapter of their lives. You can find her on

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