There are many reasons why dogs are man’s best friend.

Anyone who owns a pet (or watched a fun dog or cat video on YouTube) can tell you the many benefits of having an animal friend around the house. Yet, did you know that studies have proven pets to be particularly beneficial to seniors?

Whether you’re a dog, cat, or bird lover, you can appreciate these reasons for welcoming a pet into the family of your aging parents or grandparents!

Pets are great companions. About 6 million American seniors over the age of 65 struggle with depression. Only 10% receive treatment. As seniors begin to endure more physical challenges that limit their ability to get out of the house, pets are a great emotional support to loneliness. Furry companions provide humor and support, whether it’s the unconditional love of a dog or the more subdued friendship of a cat. And, if a cat or a dog is too much work, a bird or other small animal is beneficial as well. The chirping of a bird will liven up any home…as long as it doesn’t get too loud!

Pets make every day happier. Therapy dogs are commonly used to help people struggling with physical or mental illnesses. Nursing homes will sometimes have therapy dogs on staff to work with patients of Alzheimer’s and dementia or will bring them in for patients who would love a special visitor. In addition, many assisted living or retirement communities have someone on staff to help pets stay happy, healthy, and cared for on a daily basis.

Pets make every day healthier. Studies have found that pets can improve more than mental health. Pet owners have lower cholesterol and fewer heart issues, and when kids are introduced to pets at a young age, have fewer issues with allergies. Dogs are the perfect pet for seniors who are looking to live a more active lifestyle—walking them or taking them to the park are two awesome ways to get exercise and connect with other pet owners.

Pets are cute! Let’s be honest—kids and grandkids would love it if their parents or grandparents got a pet so they can pet sit!

It’s important to note that, although pets can be great companions, make sure to weigh the positives and negatives before surprising a senior with an animal to care for. Finding an animal with the right temperament is an important part of the decision—an energetic puppy may not be the right choice if your loved one is struggling to get around their home, especially if they’re a first-time pet owner. However, there are always options to bring in extra help if needed. Hiring a pet sitter to check in on a daily or weekly basis might be a good idea if you think your aging loved one needs a little support.

Seriously consider recommending a pet to your aging loved ones if you think they can handle the responsibilities. Sure, the physical benefits of pet ownership are great, but even more than that, the fun and love they bring can really help someone who’s lonely or depressed. There’s nothing better than the companionship of a pet to save the day!

More Information on Pet Ownership for Seniors: