1/9/2023 | By Charlie Fletcher

Furry friends appeal to people of all ages, but pet ownership for seniors offers benefits specific to older adults’ needs. We look at those benefits and the responsibilities to consider in the decision to bring a pet into your home.

Pets can serve a precious purpose in anyone’s life, and especially seniors. As we age, physical and mental health challenges and decreased independence become more of a concern. And, for some, a reality.

More seniors are taking the initiative to stay healthy and independent for longer, trying things that have the potential to prolong their holistic health and help them take care of themselves on their own for longer. One of those things is pet ownership.

If aging with grace and health and maintaining independence are the goals, pet ownership for seniors can facilitate both. But at the same time, it’s important to understand the responsibility and commitment of caring for a furry friend.

Benefits of pet ownership for seniors

Health benefits

Pet ownership for seniors offers a variety of health benefits. Dog walks inspire more physical activity, which supports overall disease prevention, weight loss, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Walking a dog can even help improve sleep, avoid dementia, and manage arthritis.

Related: Best dog breeds for seniors

Pets as travel buddies

Two cats in carriers for article on tips for moving with pets

Many seniors take advantage of traveling during retirement. Visiting new places and immersing yourself in different cultures can make the golden years much more enjoyable and satisfying. Bring your dog along on these adventures, and memories get even better.

Pets can make a solo trip feel less solo. They’ll keep you on your toes and exploring throughout every journey.

Taking pets with you on your trips requires some planning. To travel with your pet:

  • Choose a pet-friendly location and hotel
  • Research outdoor activities nearby
  • Familiarize yourself with the area around your hotel
  • Make sure your pet has up-to-date shots
  • Pack their medications and other essentials
  • Have a pet sitter on standby in case your pet can’t come

Related: A senior dog can make a wonderful pet for a senior

Pets for emotional support

Life changes can lead seniors into isolation and loneliness. Loved ones and friends pass away; kids leave home and empty nest syndrome sets in; retirement cuts daily social interactions; physical conditions limit mobility; and more. It’s easy to start feeling alone all the time, tucked away from the world. Isolation and loneliness can take a negative toll on emotions and lead to depression and poor physical health.

senior woman coffee dog outside (credit: Pojoslaw Dreamstime) for article on the health benefits of coffee

Pet ownership for seniors offers some of the best emotional support you could ask for.

Taking your pet out for a walk or to a pet-friendly venue creates more opportunities to socialize with others, helping you avoid the isolation and loneliness that seniors can experience. Pet ownership can also decrease anxiety, depression, and stress and improve your mood.

When the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging surveyed pet owners age 50 to 80, 88% said their pets help them enjoy life, while 86% said they make them feel loved. In addition, 73% said they inspire a sense of purpose. And 60% agreed their pets help them deal with physical and emotional challenges.

Related: Perfect pets for seniors

Prepare for pet ownership

Pet ownership for seniors – indeed, for people of any age – isn’t to be taken lightly. On the contrary, it’s a huge responsibility, so it’s essential to ensure you’re ready to take it on mentally, physically, and financially. Before you purchase a pet:

  • Research the kind of pet you want to get and really dig into why you want to get it.
  • Be sure you are allowed to have the pet you want in the home or community where you live.
  • Thoroughly understand your financial obligations with owning your particular pet.
  • Familiarize yourself with what it will take to care for your pet properly.
  • Determine whether you’re physically and mentally prepared to own a pet.
  • Determine if you’ll have anyone to help you care for your pet.
  • If you are ready to move forward, solidify your budget and look for potential fits at responsible animal shelters or from responsible breeders.
  • Narrow your choices down to your top two and visit the pets and the breeder in person.
  • If you can keep the pet overnight to see how they do, even better.
  • If you are getting a dog, find a trainer who can help you mold a pet that is obedient and well trained, especially for going on walks and other outings.
  • Once you’ve decided, contact the seller, complete your purchase, bring your new pet home. Let the love and the training begin!

Related: 10 pet care products for senior owners

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees” – Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can find more of her writing at