Why Pets are Such a Treat if You’re Over 55

Wet kisses and unconditional love are just the beginning when it comes to the benefits of pets, especially people over the age of 55. From reducing depression and lowering blood pressure to giving you a wonderful, tail-wagging reason to get out of bed in the morning, numerous research studies have shown the positive impact. But before you rush out to find your new best friend, let’s take a closer look at what to expect and what you should consider about pet ownership.

The Benefits of Fur Babies

The physical benefits of owning a pet include:

  • Motivation to Stay Active – A study published in The Gerontologist found that dog walking was associated with lower body mass index, fewer daily activity limitations and fewer doctor visits.
  • Lower Blood Pressure – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a pet has the potential to lower blood pressure, especially in hypertensive or high-risk patients.
  • Decreased Stress – A study at State University of New York at Buffalo found that when conducting stressful tasks, people experienced less stress when their pets were with them than even when a spouse, family member or close friend was nearby.
  • Pain Relief – Loyola University researchers found the use of pet therapy while recovering from surgery helped people to need significantly less pain medication.

There are mental and emotional benefits as well:

  • Companionship – Social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to the AARP and living alone is one of the key risk factors. Having a pet can provide much that needed companionship and give you more social opportunities – dog park anyone?
  • Keeping Mentally Active – Initially you might think all that’s involved with taking care of a pet is a negative thing. However, it’s actually another way you can stay mentally active in which a growing body of research suggests could play a role in slowing memory decline.
  • Purpose – In retirement many struggle to find the usefulness they once felt in their career or when raising a family. A pet can once again offer that purpose, and taking care of them can improve confidence and self-esteem.
  • Living in the present – Retirees often worry about the what ifs of tomorrow – will you outlive your savings, what will happen to your health, who will take care of you? But pets luckily can’t think like that; they live in the moment and have a way of keeping your focus right there with them.

Considerations for Pet Ownership over 55

The owner and pet relationship should really be a two-way street with benefits all around so it’s important to consider the following before making that commitment:

  • Experience Owning a Pet – For people over 55, it’s usually best to at least have some experience in owning a pet before. That way it’s an easier lifestyle transition and you have a clearer understanding of what to expect.
  • Activity Level – Puppies are certainly cute but they need a lot of attention and exercise, much more so that older dogs or cats. And cats in general are more self-sufficient than dogs. If you have any disabilities or functional limitations consider how much you could realistically take on.
  • Allergies – This could potentially be a deal-breaker but there are dog and cat breeds known to be more hypoallergenic. Doing your research here beforehand would be well worth it.
  • Temperament – Just like there are some types of people you get along better with, pets are the same way. Make sure to look at the characteristics of different breeds and their personalities.
  • Finances – Pets can be expensive, from toys and food to supplies and vet bills costs can rack up pretty quickly. And it’s not just the initial costs you need to consider; pets are a long-term financial commitment.
  • Contingency Plan – Should you no longer be able to care for your pet it’s crucial to have a plan in place for a family member or friend to step in so they’ll always have the loving home they deserve.
  • Place of Residence – Do you live in a house? In an apartment? With your children or a roommate? Consider whether it’s practical to own a pet given your living situation. Also check for pet restrictions with your home owner’s association or apartment complex.

Pets in Senior Independent Living

There are many benefit to senior independent living communities  – amenities, activities, convenience, peace of mind – which is more and more people are moving to them at a younger age, while perfectly healthy. What you may not know is that many of these communities are also pet friendly.

And the added bonus is that some also offer assistance with dog grooming, walking and/or other pet services which can make the decision to become a pet owner even easier with this extra help onsite. Be sure to check with any senior independent living community you’re interested in for their specific pet policy.

If at the end of the day you decide against pet ownership, you may still be able to regularly enjoy the benefits of animals in your senior independent living community. Many communities offer pet therapy programs where animals from rescues, animals shelters or certified therapy dogs come in to visit with residents.

How to Find Your Purrfect Pet

If there’s a specific type of dog you’re interested in, breeders are certainly an option. There are also many wonderful animals looking for homes through local pet rescues and/or animal shelters plus the fees are often much more reasonable. Petfinder.com is a good place to begin your search and includes these groups as well.

Not a dog person? Although cats often get a bad reputation, they are wonderful pets as well. Don’t let that aloof demeanor fool you, they are loving, fun and loyal too! You might also consider fish or birds as well.

For more information on the benefits of pets in our senior independent living communities, contact us today to schedule a visit →

5 Exercise Tips for a Healthy Retirement

What are you going to do with all that time on your hands? It’s a question those about to retire or newly retired may hear often. And while retirement does come with more time to do the things you love, unfortunately for many, it doesn’t include exercise. But don’t worry, we’ll show you how fun and easy it can be to make exercise part of your daily routine. As well as how LACK of exercise can put a real damper on your retirement plans.

Seniors and “The Sitting Disease”

We all know that exercise offers a range of benefits both physically and mentally. But we often overlook the risks of a sedentary lifestyle – little to no physical activity and/or primarily participating in activities where you sit or lie down such as reading or watching TV.

Being sedentary, also known as “the sitting disease,” puts seniors at higher risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and even cognitive decline. What’s more, bone loss may happen at a faster rate, you’re more at risk for falls and may have more trouble performing daily activities due to loss of muscle tissue. If that isn’t enough, you’re also more at risk of depression.

And shockingly, the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that a 67 percent of seniors are, in fact, sedentary for at least 8.5 hours a day.

But, if the gym has never been your friend, don’t worry. The benefits of exercise are seen not only in those who maintain an existing level of physical activity, but also in those who begin exercising between ages 70 and 85.

The First Step

Now that you know it’s never too late to get started, what do you do first? We recommend checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen to see if you have any restrictions due to medications or chronic conditions. Or, if foot pain has kept you sidelined in the past it may be time to see a podiatrist to correct any issues or help with footwear recommendations.

Making Your Move

The National Institute on Aging recommends seniors do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week in sessions of at least 10 minutes duration across four categories of exercise: endurance, strength training, balance and flexibility. To break this down an active senior could exercise approximately 20 minutes per day, seven days per week; 30 minutes per day for five days per week; or 50 minutes per day for three days per week; whatever’s most convenient. Now let’s talk tips:

  1. Endurance Exercises – These are aerobic activities that increase your breathing and heart rate to improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulator system. Try brisk walking, dancing, jogging, swimming, biking, tennis or basketball – even yard work or climbing stairs count! Consider getting a pedometer to track your steps, working up to 10,000 or more steps a day.
  2. Strength Training – Here you’re focused on improving your muscle strength to carry those grandchildren around or simply make getting out of a chair easier. Do these exercises for all major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, back, hips and legs) two or more days a week making sure not to exercise the same group two days in a row. It can be as easy as having two pound weights handy for arm curls while watching your favorite show or doing some pushups while waiting for coffee to brew in the morning.
  3. Balance Exercises – According to the CDC, one in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year. And falling more than once doubles your chances of falling again. However, improving your balance through activities such as standing on one foot while waiting in line, heel-to-toe walking to get the mail and taking Tai Chi can reduce your risk.
  4. Flexibility Exercises – Keeping your body limber through stretching gives you more freedom of movement, making it easier to do your everyday tasks like making the bed, seeing what’s behind you when backing out the car or even bending to tie your shoes. Try neck, shoulder and upper arm stretches, calf stretches and yoga for example.
  5. Make it Fun – Perhaps the most important tip, as you’re more likely to keep doing something you enjoy, is to make exercising fun. Look at it as a social opportunity by joining classes at your local senior center or gym or start a walking club with your neighbors. Listen to music, podcasts or audio books while exercising, take your grandkids to the park to play or incorporate it into things you already love like gardening.

Bonus tip: Make sure you spend about five minutes before and after you exercise to warm up and cool down. This gives your muscles a chance to get ready and helps to prevent injury and soreness later.

Active Senior Living is Easy

If all of the above sounds hard to keep track of or logistically challenging due to lack of transportation, we get it. Know that there is an easier way. Today’s senior living communities are going beyond the typical games and social gatherings towards an overall wellness approach, of which exercise is a big part.

In active senior living communities you’ll have access to amenities such as a fitness center, pool, a range of exercise classes and even walking trails and dog parks in some cases. Plus it’s all steps from your door so you no longer have to worry about transportation; and there will always be an exercise buddy nearby!

For more information on how our active senior living communities support a healthy retirement, contact us today to schedule a visit →