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Pawprints on Our Heart W hen I was young, my grandparents always had a new pet around the house. This was largely due to my grandfather’s big heart. He was always bringing home strays. It drove my grandmother crazy. Once, she wrote a story for him about a woman who was going to leave her husband if he brought home one more pet. I don’t think my grandfather got the hint. He kept bringing home strays, but my grandmother still loved him. That said, after he passed away, my grandmother never got another pet. I think she had her fill of them by that point. feel needed, something we all can relate to. Of course, owning a pet Pet Ownership and Senior Health
comes with challenges. There are situations in which a senior may not be able to care for a pet, or having a pet
I wonder now if I should have tried to convince my grandmother to get a dog or cat when she was older. In the last few years, there has been so much research into the health benefits of pet ownership. I’ve read articles about how caring for a pet reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves heart health, and even helps people get more exercise. Anyone can benefit from pet ownership, but pets can be especially valuable for seniors. Last fall, a poll sponsored by the AARP and the University of Michigan found that 88% of seniors who own a pet said their pet helped them enjoy life. Pets can also help combat loneliness. Of the seniors surveyed, 72% said their furry, finned, or feathered friend helped them cope with physical or emotional symptoms. This is really great to hear, because loneliness has been associated with numerous health problems, including poor sleep, higher stress, and inflammation.
around may pose a danger to a senior’s well-being. However, when appropriate, I’ve seen how the joys of caring for a pet outweigh any of the drawbacks. Though my grandmother never got another pet of her own, there was a neighborhood cat who came by the house almost every day. My grandmother called the cat Moochi because he was a mooch. Gram insisted it wasn’t her cat — she would even chase the cat out whenever he got into the house — but she always bought cat food at the store and worried when Moochi didn’t turn up for a few days. I remember how my grandmother would sit on the porch to have her morning coffee and how the cat would come along and keep her company. Moochi brightened her day and highlighted the value pets bring to our lives.
Cindy Saunders, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
For seniors whose families live far away, their pets become their family. Being able to take care of a pet can help seniors
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