At Cera we know that pets have a positive impact on the wellbeing of both our care staff and service users. Those who own pets will be aware that they become more than just a pet, they become a part of the family. The rumble of a cat's purr or the warmth of a dog cuddling up to you can have a huge impact on a person and really improve their quality of life.
Research also shows that pets can offer a huge variety of health and psychological benefits to the elderly.
So what are the benefits of pet ownership for the service users we work with at Cera?
As we grow older, our vulnerability to loneliness increases with the loss of elderly partners and friends. A study using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which surveyed individuals aged 52 and over, found that more than one third (34%) of all respondents reported being lonely often or some of the time, and this figure increased to nearly half (46%) for those over the age of 80. We have a full blog about helping the elderly combat loneliness here.
A pet offers a constant companion and can provide comfort through life's ups, downs and challenges. This means a pet could be the difference between someone experiencing loneliness and also provide them much needed comfort.
Not only do pets help reduce loneliness and therefore a susceptibility to depression, but they are also known to physically improve the health of their owners. A study conducted on the calming effect of pet ownership showed that they can slightly help to reduce blood pressure and heart rate. One study on the Effects of Human-Animal Interactions discovered that spending just 15 minutes with an animal initiates hormonal changes in the brain, dropping stress levels and increasing serotonin (a “feel-good” hormone).They also give owners a sense of responsibility and improve their emotional wellbeing.
A study on “The Role of Pets in Human Healthy Active Aging” showed research that the United Kingdom saved an estimated £2.45 billion in national health care costs in 2013, thanks to the many health benefits of pet ownership.
Following on from the sense of responsibility, pets also help people to keep to a routine with feeding schedules, walks, grooming and cleaning. When living alone it is easy to sometimes lose track of time and the day. Whilst visits from our incredible carers can also help with structure, pets can be there when we are not as a constant companion that keep our service users active and happy.
It is easy for elderly people who sometimes have difficulty moving around to reduce the amount of activity they do which can over time negatively impact their health. However, looking after a pet can increase and encourage movement as they need to be fed, groomed, walked, played with, or let into an outdoor space regularly.
We touched on the emotional impact of owning a pet but pets really do give their owners a sense of purpose and our carers see this in service users when they visit. Organising care and looking after another life is hugely rewarding (as our carers know) but for elderly people it can give them a sense of purpose as well as enhance feelings of self-worth.
If making a difference to the lives of elderly people in your community sounds like something you would enjoy click here to find out more about what it takes to be a Cera Care Assistant. Alternatively, click here to see if we have opportunities available near you.