Many benefits come from caring for a pet

There's no disputing animals have always had a positive impact on their owners' lives. Now, evidence suggests four-legged friends are a real health benefit for elderly people, helping them live longer, healthier and happier lives, suggests the Coastal Companion Care Communicator newsletter. Pets are a huge benefit to caregivers as well. Studies show owning a pet lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helping to reduce the risk for heart disease.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, caring for a cat or dog helps people overcome depression and loneliness. Animals have a keen sense when it comes to emotions. They pick up on many senses humans can't. Animals are fantastic for companionship. They are happy to see you, they know when you are sad, they love to receive attention, and they are loyal. The positive impact animals have on people - especially the elderly - is tremendous. So much so there are organizations such as the Pets for the Elderly Foundation, a nonprofit organization, that specifically places dogs and cats into the homes of senior citizens, helping them overcome loneliness.

From a caregiver's perspective, the simple act of walking your dog keeps you active both physically and mentally. Fresh air and sunshine are good for you both. Stroking or brushing the animal is good exercise for the hands and arms. Pets may motivate the elderly to do activities they might not do otherwise. Pets help the aging focus on something positive instead of the negative physical and emotional preoccupation that can come with aging. People and pets can be a winning combination. The right companion animal may help seniors and their caregivers lead happier, healthier lives.

For more information contact the Caregiver Resource Center.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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