The Power of Pets

Anyone who has a pet – whether a dog or cat, bird or fish, furry or non-furry – understands the important role those little friends play in our lives. For many of us, we can’t imagine what life would be like without a pet to love and cherish.

“Pets are members of our family, so when it’s time to choose a senior living community, it makes sense that seniors are actively seeking out places that will allow them to bring pets with them,” says Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights. “It should come as no surprise that pet-friendly communities like Aspired Living of Prospect Heights are less the exception and more the rule in today’s society.”

Here’s some great news for pet owners: Studies are showing that pets don’t just bring enjoyment to their life – they make you healthier, too.

“These days, wellness focuses on a whole-body health experience, and part of that extends to your emotional, mental and spiritual health ... all of which can be affected by having a pet in your life,” says Diane. “Studies show that spending just 15 minutes with an animal lowers your cortisol levels, increases serotonin and makes you a calmer, happier person – practically instantly.”

And that’s just for starters. Here are just some of the amazing benefits that having a pet in your life can mean, no matter how old or young you are.

1. It reduces your stress levels. Playing with or petting an animal causes chemical reactions in your brain that are just as powerful as a mood-enhancing drug. Levels of oxycontin increase and cortisol levels decrease, which cause swift stress reduction. Lowering your stress levels can help instantly calm your blood pressure, help your cognitive function, decrease depression and anxiety, and instill a sense of calm and well-being. Plus, it’s hard to feel stressed when Fido is looking at you like you’re the most amazing person in the world. 

2. It lowers blood pressure. All that calmness and stress reduction has benefits for your cardiovascular system. Remaining calm and less stressed helps seniors keep regular and healthy blood pressure levels, which has overall health benefits for your entire body. A healthy blood pressure reduces your chance of heart attack and stroke, lowers cardiovascular problems, reduces your risk for diabetes and also decreases your chance of developing dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. It turns out that owning a pet is good for your heart, both metaphorically and literally!

3. It helps keep your brain sharp. It’s not just our bodies that need regular exercise. Studies have shown that people who remain mentally stimulated throughout their senior years have better attention spans, less confusion, more of an ability to focus and a decreased risk of memory related issues or cognitive decline. Owning a pet means greater responsibility and gives seniors a purpose and sense of focus – which, naturally, results in an improved mood, better attention span and a sharper mind, all of which lead to aging well and better health in our golden years.

4. It reduces depression and loneliness. It’s easy for seniors to become socially isolated as it becomes harder to get out of their house, or as friends and family move away. Staying social helps us remain healthy and engaged, which is why it’s so important to have companions and make emotional connections throughout our lives. And what makes a better constant companion than a pet? Any pet owner can tell you that it’s hard to feel lonely when your four-legged friend treats you like you’re the most special person in the world. That unconditional love is a priceless benefit – it helps you feel less alone in the world, and can even reduce depression because you know that someone loves you.

5. It helps seniors recover faster after a heart attack. Remember what we said about pets being good for the heart? A recent American Heart Association study found that pet owners have more reduced mortality following a heart attack than non-pet owners.

6. It helps lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels. There are many things that can’t be explained by science. This is one of them. Many studies have discovered that pet owners have lower cholesterol triglyceride levels than people who don’t have pets. These levels can’t be explained by BMI, diet, smoking or exercise levels. It’s just one of those strange and wonderful things.

7. It helps reduce anxiety and depression for those with cognitive issues. Pets bring joy to everyone around them – even people who may not be able to understand why. Recent studies have found that therapy dogs can help increase socialization and well-being in individuals with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. A pet doesn’t have to be therapy-certified, either. Any animal can raise spirits and increase happiness. 

8. It helps seniors live longer. There are a lot of benefits on this list – and even more that we haven’t written about. Needless to say, the biggest overall benefit is that pet ownership can lead to a longer life – and a happier life overall.

How to Find a Pet-Friendly Senior Community
Now that you know all the benefits of pet ownership, here are some questions to ask as you’re seeking for a senior living community that will love your pet as much as you do.

  • What are your pet ownership rules? How many pets are you allowed to have, and what types can you bring?
  • Do you have deposit fees? Are there additional fees for bringing your pet with you?
  • How will my pet be cared for? Is there a dog park or nearby green space where your dog can do his or her business? Is it easily accessible and safe for seniors with mobility issues?

“Pet ownership is an important part of life at Aspired Living of Prospect Heights,” says Diane. “We encourage residents to bring their pets to live with us, and we also have an amazing program called See Spot Retire. This initiative is part of our innovative VIVA! programming, and allows us to give senior dogs a new lease on life at our community. We adopt a senior dog from a nearby shelter, who then becomes our community pet. It’s a great benefit for everyone: for our residents, who can enjoy pet ownership without the responsibilities; and the dog, who suddenly has a large, loving family with all the attention, treats and unconditional love he or she could ever want.”

For more information about the benefits that pets bring to our lives, or to learn how we help our residents Live Well. Age Well. Be Well! every day, contact us at 224-300-4760.

Live Well Beyond Ordinary at Aspired Living®

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day® Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane or Janette, Lifestyle Specialists, at 224-300-4760.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes, and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.