A dog is often referred to as man’s best friend. There is a lot of truth in that saying. Studies have shown that caring for an animal can be truly beneficial to your well being, especially as you age.

Owning or caring for a pet can give someone purpose. It means someone to care for, other than a family member or friend. This is especially true for some senior citizens, who may only receive occasional visits from their family members, or for those who have the desire to feel useful, but are unable to care for themselves.

In cases where an elderly individual may need a service dog because they require the use of a wheelchair or if they have lost their vision, the service dog can provide both companionship as well as security.

Toy dogs and cats are great animals that are easy to care for. They require little to no walking. They love to sit and be cared for and are pretty autonomous as pets. They require a urine pad, litter, food, water and of course, an abundance of love and affection. Seniors who are immobile or have restricted mobility will still be able to tend to the needs of their feline or furry friend.

Fish and birds may also be an option for those with allergies. The former are easy to care for and are not expensive to purchase, while the latter are fun to be with as they enjoy singing on a sunny day.

According to the publication Aging in Place, studies show that caring for pets in the golden years can help seniors delay the onset of heart disease, stroke and depression. “Just 15 minutes of bonding time with an animal can set off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increase production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.”

Some seniors cannot care for themselves let alone a pet. Fortunately, many residences offer pet bonding clinics or themed days that centre around pets. Sometimes just petting an animal, holding one, or even something as simple as looking at birds and exotic animals, can awaken the inner child in you.

Caring for a pet companion can be a rewarding experience that can bring joy and love into anyone’s life. As you age, you may want to consider adopting a beloved pet for yourself.