Owning a pet can be a positive undertaking for people of all ages. Pets can serve as a constant companion and a loyal and loving friend. They also help people become more social and help them to live longer than non-pet owners. Pets that serve as emotional support animals (ESAs) can be beneficial for all ages as well. But one age group that benefits greatly from owning an ESA is senior citizens. So, which animals are best suited to be ESAs for the elderly? Check out our findings below.
What animals can be used for emotional support purposes?
There’s a huge variety of animals that can serve as ESAs, ranging from the more traditional dogs, cats, horses, and rabbits, to the more exotic, such as hedgehogs, ferrets, and pigs. ESAs don’t even have to be warm-blooded – reptiles like snakes, lizards, and frogs can all act as ESAs as long as they serve as a source of emotional support for the individual.
What are some benefits to owning an ESA?
Many studies have shown that owning a pet can be beneficial to people’s health. With everything from lowering blood pressure and increasing fitness to easing anxiety and depression, pets can do so much for our physical and emotional health – and it seems these benefits only increase as we get older.
A recent survey by The University of Michigan and AARP noted that participants aged 50 through 80 years old reported that 79% of them saw their stress levels decrease just by owning a pet. Further, 88% said their pets helped them to better enjoy life and 86% said their pets made them feel loved. This can be really helpful, since a lot of seniors report feeling lonely and isolated as they grow older. ESAs can also help seniors be productive and stick to a routine, as well as allow them to be more active and social.
What is a good pet for the elderly?
There are several types of pets that can serve as great emotional support animals for seniors. Here’s a breakdown of some popular ones:
Dogs can be energetic, loving companions. They’re a good fit for seniors who are still fairly active and can take the dog out for walks and exercise. Dogs can be a little high maintenance since they need to be groomed and taken to the vet, but overall, there’s a reason they call them man’s best friend! Their playful nature can be a great antidote to any senior’s feelings of malaise.
A few breeds of dogs are better suited for ESA work with the elderly. If seniors are living on their own, they can look into any size dog they choose. But for the elderly living in assisted living, smaller dogs might be preferred. Some of the best dog breeds for the elderly include Bichon Frises (who are easy to train and only weigh around 10 pounds), Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (who are small and extremely affectionate), and French Bulldogs (who are cheerful and energetic). Seniors who are looking to adopt a dog should make sure to do some research on specific breeds they’re interested in so they can find a dog that’s the perfect fit for them.
If you’re wondering, “Are cats good for elderly people?” the answer is yes! Cats can be much less work than dogs because they tend to be more independent and don’t require grooming. They work well as ESAs because they have a quiet, calm energy that can be soothing for seniors looking for a more introverted animal.
There are many different cat breeds, but the most recommended ones for the elderly are Birmans (because they’re gentle and intelligent), Ragdolls (because they’re laid-back and loving), and British Shorthairs (because they’re playful, yet still on the mellow side). Seniors looking to adopt a cat should spend some time with the breed they’re interested in or play with a few cats at an animal shelter to see which ones they click with.
If a senior is not interested in an animal that’s furry or cuddly, birds are a wonderful option for elderly pet owners. They can exude calmness and are pretty low maintenance.
Canaries, zebra finches, and parakeets are all great picks because they’re easy to care for and don’t take up much space (which can be helpful if the senior lives in an apartment). These types of birds are also pretty social, so they won’t mind their owner holding them occasionally. Plus, they can be beautiful to look at!
Rodents, including guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, etc., are a good choice if the senior doesn’t have a ton of space or a lot of energy to constantly interact with their ESA. Rodents can be super low maintenance; as long as the owner keeps their cage clean and offers plenty of food and water, the pet will be content. These types of ESAs can also be helpful if a person wants to carry them with them when they go outdoors or out to public places – they’re super portable!
Owning a pet can be a lot of responsibility, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Seniors who are looking for something to take care of or who wish to connect with an animal can find so much joy in having an ESA. Seniors should make sure to think through the full obligation they’ll be taking on before they adopt a pet so that they’re sure they’re up for the job. As long as they make their decision carefully, they can reap all the benefits of owning a pet!