Importance of Pet Companionship

By Abigail Haller, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), approximately 85 million families own a pet in the United States. Having a pet comes with many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. It’s no surprise many households have a furry family member.

One commonly known benefit of having a pet is companionship. Often when someone lives alone, especially older adults, having a companion helps decrease loneliness. Several other benefits listed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention include decreased blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels as a result of increased movement and socialization.

Finding a companion that best suits your needs and abilities will build a strong bond. Dogs and cats are the most popular but can require more maintenance. Birds, fish, and other small critters can be just as rewarding, require less maintenance, and fit well in smaller spaces. When considering a pet, here are a few things to ask yourself.

  • Do you have allergies?
  • What type of bond would you like to have with your pet?
  • How much space do you have to offer?
  • How much attention can you give to a pet?
  • What is your monthly budget to spend on your pet?

Even though having a pet has its perks, not everyone is suited for a pet at home. Financial, physical, and spatial limitations can restrict older adults from having a pet in their home. Fortunately, many senior centers and senior living facilities have animal programming. Thanks to the National Council on Aging and their partnership with Human Animal Bond Research Institute, there is a greater push to establish and improve pet policies and pet therapy programs for senior centers and senior living institutes.

There are also several organizations that offer low-cost or free services to pet owners. The Humane Society has a list of organizations by state that help individuals with veterinary services and even help with food costs. Check out your local humane society to see what services they offer and if they have a companion waiting for you today!

Abigail Haller is a Screening Integration Coordinator for MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan. She has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since October 2018. As a Screening Integration Coordinator, Abigail helps seniors in Michigan apply for benefits so they can feel comfortable with the application process.