Pets for children and seniorsWritten by admin on June 21st, 2012
By Deb Young
Having a pet is usually a rite of childhood. Children enjoy the companionship offered by animals.
But did you know, that not only can pets be a source of warm, fuzzy entertainment, but they can offer several developmental benefits to children as well? A child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development can all be encouraged by interaction with the family pet. For children especially, pets can be wonderful social facilitators: children are more prone to approach and interact with another child who is playing with a pet.
In this way, a pet can be the bridge between a less socially outgoing child and other potential playmates.
When children grow up with pets in homes they have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma.
Childhood pets offer security and stability. Nearly 70% of children confide in their pets, confident their secrets will not be betrayed.
Because of the special bond that often develops between pet and child, pets can sometimes fill the role of comforter. Since the relationship is non-judgmental from the pet’s perspective, a hurting child might be more willing to initially trust a pet than a person.
And kids with pets get outside more – to go for walks, run and play – and enjoy all the associated health benefits.
It is a misunderstood fact that pets teach children responsibility. Parents teach responsibility, and pets just make a good vehicle for learning.
Pets provide a natural gateway into the animal kingdom – love for one’s pet as a child often translates into an adult belief that the relationship between humans and animals is one of mutual support.
I am sure you’ve probably noticed that when you pet a soft, warm cat or play fetch with a dog whose tail won’t stop wagging, you relax and your heart feels a little warmer. This is not just for the young. In fact, pets may help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.
Animals help seniors become more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. Studies show that elderly pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure overall than their contemporaries without pets.
Many nursing homes have taken this information to heart. For years, organizations have been bringing vaccinated, groomed, and behavior-tested animals into hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and assisted living homes to give seniors a chance to pet and play with them. The residents get to have some therapeutic physical contact and a fun activity to break up their day. More recently, some resident homes have even begun letting animals live in the home full-time.
But before you encourage an older person to adopt a pet, consider whether you could take care of the animal if its owner is no longer able to. Often, if seniors reach the point where they have to leave their homes and move into nursing homes or assisted-living facilities, they also have to give up their pets.
The number of nursing homes and other types of housing for the elderly that will accept animals is growing, but the vast majorities still don’t allow pets. Seniors can plan ahead and find a pet-friendly nursing facility, just in case they need to use it someday.
Once that commitment has been made, however, and an appropriate pet has been found, the joys and benefits of the pet relationship will last for many years to come.
Pets need love, companionship and attention – no different than the rest of us. What they give in return is immeasurable!