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Description: I suspect you’ve probably heard that having pets is good for us. You probably have also heard the pets are particularly beneficial for seniors. However, how much do you know about how those benefits actually play out? That is, what does research tell us about the benefits that pets provide to seniors? Think a little bit about what sorts of factors might be at play and then read the article linked below for a brief overview of some areas in which research supports the claim having a pet is beneficial, particularly the seniors.

Source: Amazing benefits to seniors having pets, The Oakland Press, March first, 2020.

Date: February 4, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

Article Link:  

As the linked article suggests, there appeared to be a number of areas in which pets provide benefits to the health and wellness of seniors. You probably thought about exercise and companionship as two positive pet related areas and you could probably see how all those areas could be expanded to include having a sense of purpose and perhaps an altered focus but, I suspect you did not anticipate the pain reduction findings. Now here is one more question to consider, does the research mentioned in the article allow us to actually make causal attributions about the potential positive impacts of pets amongst the elderly? Could it be the case that seniors who have better lifestyle habits that are supportive health and well-being are also more likely to have pets than those who do not? What we need, of course, or studies with more experimental or longitudinal designs in which pets are introduced into the lives of seniors in order to see if the senior’s habits related to health and wellness improve when pets are enter their lives. That approach could turn out to suggest a rather cost-effective way of improving senior health.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some other ways in which senior’s health and well-being maybe positively influenced by the presence in their lives of pets?
  2. If the studies reported in the linked article are largely correlational in nature, what might some alternative causal factors be that are associated with health and Wellness and pets of seniors?
  3. How might we, ethically, design a study that would allow us to see whether the presence of pets in seniors’ lives is causally related two improved health and Wellness?

References (Read Further):

Marcus, D. A., Bernstein, C. D., Constantin, J. M., Kunkel, F. A., Breuer, P., & Hanlon, R. B. (2012). Animal-assisted therapy at an outpatient pain management clinic. Pain Medicine, 13(1), 45-57.

Antonacopoulos, N. M. D., & Pychyl, T. A. (2010). An examination of the potential role of pet ownership, human social support and pet attachment in the psychological health of individuals living alone. Anthrozoös, 23(1), 37-54.

Himsworth, C. G., & Rock, M. (2013). Pet ownership, other domestic relationships, and satisfaction with life among seniors: Results from a Canadian national survey. Anthrozoös, 26(2), 295-305. Link

Raina, P., Waltner‐Toews, D., Bonnett, B., Woodward, C., & Abernathy, T. (1999). Influence of companion animals on the physical and psychological health of older people: An analysis of a one‐year longitudinal study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 47(3), 323-329. Link

Cherniack, E. P., & Cherniack, A. R. (2015). Assessing the benefits and risks of owning a pet. CMAJ, 187(10), 715-716.

Siegel, J. M. (2011). Pet ownership and health. In The psychology of the human-animal bond (pp. 167-177). Springer, New York, NY. Link