Having a four-legged, furry companion is good for our mental and physical well­ being. That's true at any age, including during retirement. A pet provides unconditional love and a sympathetic ear on difficult days. For older adults, the health benefits of having a pet are numerous.

Let's look at a few reasons why pets are good for us and why an older adult might want to adopt a senior pet.


  1. Unconditional support Animals are typically loyal creatures that stick by us th rough thick and thin. They are there for us in ways most people can't be. Sometimes it's listening when we aresad, other times hearing our joys and secrets. For an older adult who has recently experienced the loss of a loved one, a pet makes an ideal companion during the process of grieving and healing. The senior has someone counting on them and giving them purpose.
  2. Stress and anxiety relief Research shows that pets lower stress levels and blood pressure. The very act of petting a furry friend is soothing. Finding natural remedies for reducing stress is important for maintaining optimum health.
  3. Activity An older adult might be reluctant to go for a walk around the neighborhood on their own but will happily share the journey with a pet. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for people of all ages, but especially for seniors. It helps maintain stamina and balance while reducing the risk for depression.
  4. Socialization Pets attract attention and make new friends easily. If you routinely take your pet for a walk, it won't be long before you make new friends, both human and animal. It's a great way to get to know the neighbors.


First, consider your budget. Some breeds of cats and dogs are more expensive to maintain. It might be higher grooming expenses, a specialty food, or more frequent veterinary care. Before you adopt a pet, make sure you are confident you can afford the monthly expenses.

Next, learn more about the animal's disposition and needs. For example, a dog like a Jack Russell Terrier may require more exercise than a senior can safely manage. A calmer breed might be better. Also take the home environment into consideration. If you or your loved one doesn't have outdoor living space or easy access to a park, a cat could be a better choice. Some seniors also find birds make good companions.

One last tip is to consider adopting an older pet. They generally make great companions for seniors. Most are house-trained and past the exhaustingly active puppy stage. Local shelters often have photos of the animals up for adoption on their websites. You can log on and read more about them before leaving home.


This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Madison Senior Center and a link back to the original post.