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Can Adopting a Pet Help You Live Longer?

Armen Hareyan's picture

Baby boomers looking for longevity should start looking at the nearest animal shelter.
Having a Pet

According to numerous studies dating back more than a century, interaction with animals has a beneficial effect on human health. The Centers for Disease Control reports that pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, as well as alleviating feelings of loneliness and the depression that can result.

"Our animal companions serve as a link to Nature and through Nature our spirits are elevated. Yet, sadly many of us have lost awareness of this relationship - this connectedness," says noted pet expert Dr. Diane Pomerance in her book Finding Peace After the Loss of a Loved Animal Companion, which is the fifth book in her Animal Companion Series consisting of books and CDs (Polaire Publications,). "Pets can provide us with so many gifts. They can increase the longevity and improve the quality of life physiologically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually."

Not only does interaction with pets decrease stress and related cardiovascular illnesses, but caring for a pet has practical everyday benefits. Having a dog, for example, increases the likelihood of regular outdoor exercise. Daily walking is a known benefit for cardiovascular fitness, and having a dog to walk increases opportunity not only for exercise but for socialization. Indoor pets also provide substantial benefits. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that senior citizens who own pets are less likely to be depressed, are better able to tolerate social isolation, and are more active than those who do not own pets, regardless of the kind of pet owned.

Pets, by promoting playfulness, laughter and affection, have a soothing and therapeutic effect on their owners. "Their presence and very essence reveal the life force, creative force, the energy and vitality that exist in all of us," writes Dr. Pomerance. "Even if we don't find inspiring relationships among other people, we find real love, affection, friendship, companionship, camaraderie, and loyalty through the animal companions we adopt."

While baby boomers can improve their own health prospects by adopting a pet, older Americans can also tap into their wisdom and maturity by adopting older pets. "Older animals - far too often discarded or disposed of simply because of their age - offer priceless gifts and lessons to those who adopt them," says Dr. Pomerance. "Their gratitude for living in a home where they are loved, valued, appreciated and respected is limitless." Many shelters will discount or waive fees for those adopting older animals, with the added advantage of gaining a pet that is likely to be calmer, already housebroken, and beyond the teething and hyperactive stage.

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The Author

Dr. Pomerance created, established, and serves as director of the Pet Grief Counseling Program for the SPCA of Texas. In addition to serving as an active volunteer for the SPCA of Texas, she is also an active member of K9 Friends Visiting Therapy Dogs, and the Alaskan Malamute Assistance League.

Animal Companion Series (2006) - Consisting of the following in softcover book and CD:

Finding Peace After the Loss of a Loved Animal Companion (2006)

Animal Elders: Caring About Our Aging Animal Companions (2005)

Animal Companions in Our Hearts, Our Lives, and Our World (2004)

Animal Companions: Your Friends, Teachers, & Guides (2003)

When Your Pet Dies (2001)