Pets For Seniors: Can They Bring A Pawsitive Change?

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Could pets for senior citizens help them deal with loneliness and bring warmth and companionship in their lives? We list a few options and suggestions

As you age, loneliness is a part of life as your kith and kin move away due to various life progresses. But being the seasoned yet mellowed person you have become, you are ready to take reality and deal with it head on. Just when you think it is a lonely phase, hold on, there’s good news. You no longer have to be in a vacuum at home without any company! Pets can be your best buddies and help alleviate loneliness, say experts.

Man’s Best Friend
While pets can range from birds to reptiles, the best among the animals to have at home are dogs for its obvious reason – dogs are a man’s best friend. Animal Rights Activist and pet owner Rekha Preeti Achar terms dogs ideal for companionship. “As soon as my mother returns home from work, my dog wags its tail and makes everyone in the family feels like they’re worth a million bucks,” she enthusiastically says. On the flip side, cats can be a frustrating company for elders as Achar testifies. “I also have five cats at home. But we are always at the receiving end as they show less affection and act according to their moods. Cats all over the world are the masters and we serve them,” she jovially says.

For Arthi Balaji, mother of two, her pet dog is an integral part of life especially after her husband passed away. It helped her deal with the aftermath, she proudly says pointing at her pawed companion lying beside.

“When the world drives you crazy and nobody even wants to listen to you, there is someone patiently waiting for you no matter how your moods get,” says Mahalakshmi Raghavendar, 60. Even during sickness, dogs play a supporting role and keep you on toes with an active lifestyle, thus wading off dullness, she feels. Physically and mentally, thus dogs are natural healers.

What Are The Animals That Can Be Kept As Pets?
Animal Behaviourist FM Jerold rolls out a list of animals to pet for companionship. They are dogs, cats, mouse, squirrels and rabbits. “Out of these, a dog is the highly recommended animal for animal assisted therapy, especially in Asia.”

“Even in dogs, Pomeranians are easily adopted and bought for their looks. However, Labradors are the kind that senior citizens need.” What makes Labradors the most suited for companionship? “Their linguistic neurons and intellectual quotient,” Jerold reveals. “While other dogs can bite even playfully, labradors can be easily trained and conditioned to habits. Thus, they are the ideal for senior citizens. Although they grow bigger in size, they are not as scary for their owners as their height could suggest. Also, their sharpness makes the home a secured place. They are on guard all the time and are sensitive to their surroundings,” he adds.

What Are The Other Dog Breeds Suitable For Senior Citizens?
Some other varieties second to Labrador that are favourable for assisted therapy are Pug – for their adaptability and charm; Schnauzer – for its variety of small sizes; Cocker Spaniel for its usually happy temperament, Boston Terrier – for their attachment to owners; Shih Tzu – for its long-life span; Beagle for its playfulness; Poodle for its smartness and Pomerenians.

Is It A Yay Or Nay For Pets?
So, can senior citizens readily opt for a dog? Yes, provided, they can mutually support the dog by committing to its maintenance. Pets need vaccination, medicine, food, water and the owners’ presence. If you get one, also beware of all that it takes to impart with the companion. In the initial months, you might need to hire a dog trainer for potty training and obedience to instructions. You don’t want to get a pet and end up worrying for not being able to handle it, do you? However, once your dog is trained, you are good to entrust it with your life. So, the initial days of teething trouble and expenditure are worth it!

What If Having A Pet At Home Is Not Your Forte?
Psychologist Dr Lavanya Rajesh recommends pet therapy program for those who do not prefer rearing a pet but would like to spend time with them for healing. This saves maintenance efforts! In case you have a financial crunch in spending for these therapies but could travel, visit your nearest animal shelter. There are a lot of animals that need care and company too. Your presence in the shelters could be a win-win for the both of you. There are a lot of animal welfare centres you could look up to for mutual care in the city you live in. You may even check out pet groups on social media and schedule a visit.

All in all, if you love animals, look around. There is one waiting somewhere to receive your love.

About Author

Malavikka Sridharan

Malavikka Sridharan is a passionate writer and journalist. A staunch believer in gender equality, she runs a Facebook group of 7k members for married women empowerment. Her book Happily Married, The Marriage Survival Guide For Women is scheduled for release in 2019. Her views on happy womanhood can be found at www.womanhoodforjoy.blogspot.com.