An ingredient for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s is loneliness and isolation – or feelings of it. Although some people prefer being left alone, research shows that seniors are twice as likely to develop the disease if they feel socially isolated. Pets are about as effective to help prevent or delay dementia as living with other people.
If they must live alone or live at a distance from family and loved ones, the problem can be resolved by getting them a pet. A pet can provide some comfort, make life more interesting, and give them a sense of responsibility and of being loved – if it is a friendly pet. They can also talk to a pet, and the pet can respond.
Pets Help Relieve Stress
Having a pet around can also help relieve stress and depression. In this way, they can serve as an emotional support animal. Even if an individual lives alone and already has lower levels of dementia, a pet may help with longevity by slowing its development.
Pets May Help Seniors Eat Better
A study in an Alzheimer’s hospital showed that having pets (fish aquariums) around helped seniors eat better. It enabled them to have better health and required fewer vitamin supplements.
Some Pets May Help with Exercise
Depending on the pet, a dog can help a senior get out more. Walking more can help improve muscle strength, boost the immune system, get some fresh air and sunshine (vitamin D), and meet new neighbors. All these things can help to extend life.
Consider a Fake Pet
While some seniors may be allergic to certain kinds of animals or not want the responsibility of caring for one, they may be willing to have a fake pet. You can get a robot pet, such as a robot dog or a cat robot, for a reasonable price. They are about as effective for seniors to help prevent dementia or slow its development.
Another alternative would be a stuffed animal. Some people find comfort in having a furry friend around – even if they do not move on their own or interact with them. An aquarium with fish can be another option.
Some Considerations Before Buying a Pet
Before buying a pet for your senior loved one, consider their preferences and abilities. If they live alone, decide if they can adequately care for the animal in terms of feeding it regularly and cleaning up after it. Are they allergic to pets? If they cannot fully manage the pet’s needs, can someone nearby help?
An animal with four feet, or even a robot pet, may pose a tripping problem if the senior is not very stable when walking. You also want to ensure that the animal is normally calm and friendly. Some animals – particularly some cats – do not always want to be cuddled. Talk to the owner about the pet before getting it.
Pets can help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia because they help to avoid feelings of loneliness. Preventing dementia also enables greater longevity, but additional steps can help more. Regular exercise and a Mediterranean diet are two more ways to help prevent this disease.