In honor of The Humane Society’s National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, A Place for Mom pointed out the benefits for seniors who own a pet (“Amazing Benefits Pets Bring to Seniors,” May 2016). These benefits are especially significant given that for some seniors, a pet is their only companion.


Petting and interacting with a furry friend affects chemicals in the brain that lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. In addition, caring for a pet encourages physical activity and often gives seniors a sense of purpose. Senior living communities often allow pets and even help their residents to care for them, which facilitates mental stimulation and socialization while staving off depression.


American pet ownership continues to increase—almost 80 million households include at least one animal. We want to take good care of them, but proper care can be costly. Here are some useful cost-control tips AARP offered in “10 Tricks to Curb Pet Care Costs” (May 2016):


  • Adopt. Adoption fees are much lower than the expense of purchasing a pet, and some organizations offer discounted fees for seniors. Plus, shelter animals have usually had initial veterinary care—they may have been evaluated, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered before you take them home.
  • Don’t overfeed. Just as obesity is a problem for us, it’s a problem for our pets. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight will not only be easier on your pet food budget, but will also help your companion avoid costly health problems associated with being overweight.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth. Good dental care pays off: Regular brushing not only reduces the likelihood your pet will need pricey dental procedures, but may lessen your dog or cat’s risk for heart and kidney diseases. Be sure to use toothpaste especially made for animals.


The joy and comfort that pets can bring to our lives is truly special. The more the positive effects of these relationships are studied, the more likely senior caregiving institutions are to recognize the significance of the bond between seniors and their pets. As a result, we should see more facilities making an effort to keep people and their pets together whenever feasible.


Consider giving yourself the gift of companionship by adopting a pet this month. You will not only potentially improve your own health and well-being, you’ll be giving a homeless pet a safe, comfortable life.


Do you have a pet? Tell us how your furry friend improves your life.