The children are not at home, the work is over. A pet as a companion in old age comes in handy. Do fur friends really make us healthy and happy? Experts advise older people to realistically assess their own strengths.
Working life is over. Anyone who has always wanted to have a pet now has time to do so. What, then, should a furry companion be?
“When it comes to physical contact, dogs and cats are the best fit,” says Moira Gerlach, pet advisor at the Animal Welfare Association. An aquarium is a lot of work, but you can have fun watching the fish.
The cat is very individual and has its own opinion. Domestic cats also need to be handled vigorously or they will become fat and lethargic, ”says Astrid Behr, spokeswoman for the Federal Association of Veterinary Practitioners. “Cats may well live to be 20 years old,” says Gerlach. “They’re great for play, hugs, and caring.” On the other hand, dogs keep you fit.
More Social Contact Thanks to Dogs
Various studies have shown that dogs are especially beneficial, explains Ellen Freiberger. “Social contacts are higher simply because you have to go out,” says the sports scientist and gerontologist. “The dog is usually very suitable because it gets attached to people,” adds Gerlach.
Dogs can even reduce stress levels. “They provide security,” explains Freiberger. It lowers the risk of heart disease, according to a recent study – by walking several times a day. Those who walk through forests and meadows also train balance and help prevent falls, Freiberger notes. Even half an hour of exercise a day is enough to keep you physically and mentally fit.
Am I doing justice to the puppy? In particular, this is a question older owners of new dogs should ask themselves. Previous experience can help: “They know what to look for, but a beginner dog can be overwhelmed,” says Behr. Raising a dog is more work. But you can grow old with a dog, says Freiberger.
Animals Also Become Calmer with Age
On the other hand, the older the animal, the more comfortable it becomes, Gerlach, says. “If running no longer works, many people run more often, but do smaller circles,” explains Freiberger. “It is important that you evaluate yourself correctly.” Even small dogs need exercise, some are even more enthusiastic than large ones.
In particular, for older people, the advantage of pets is that they structure the day and set the rhythm, says Freiberger. “Many people find it difficult when they have to do it themselves.” On the other hand, such a daily structure can have a restrictive effect, Behr warns, for example, when someone reveals their desire to travel after retirement.
Therefore, it is better to agree in advance about who can look after the animal in case of illness, on vacation, or if it becomes difficult to walk over time. Financial reserves for illness, food, or vaccinations can also be helpful. If you want to plan especially far, you can issue a Supervision Power of Attorney. In case of death, the animal is accepted by the person specified in the power of attorney. “In your will, you can specify a certain amount for caring for the animal,” says Gerlach.
Go for a Walk with Pets
If you want to first check if an animal is right for you, ask your neighbors if they can take the dog for a walk. In addition, some animal shelters are happy to invite volunteers for a walk. Obligations are no longer valid, but retirees still don’t walk alone or socialize.
In addition, there are organizations that deliberately refer dogs to older people, in some cases especially older dogs. To do this, they cover expenses, for example, for medicines. They regulate the care of the dog in case of illness or on vacation.