The majority of pet owners age 50-80 find that their furry friends ease the emotional and physical issues that arise as they get older

By Kelli Bender
April 04, 2019 05:34 PM

This just in: more good press for pets!

Studies have already found that furry friends can make you happier and healthier, now a new poll of 2,051 Americans age 50-80 shows that pets can help you age gracefully too.

According to the 2019 University of Michigan National poll on Healthy Aging, 55% of Americans age 50-80 own at least one pet and that the majority of these older animal-owning individuals felt aging was easier, both physically and mentally, because of their pets.

“Most people who have pets perceive that they are beneficial to their physical and emotional health,” said Mary Janevic, an assistant research scientist with the University of Michigan School of Public Health who helped design the poll, said in a statement reported by U.S. World News and Report.

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The poll asked older pet owners if their animal companion helped with stress, energy levels, sense of purpose and more. For each question, the majority of pet owners responded “Yes” pets certainly made the challenges that come waging more palatable.

Here are some of the results from the poll:

  • 88% say pets help them enjoy life
  • 86% agree pets make them feel loved
  • 79% believe pets reduce their stress
  • 73% feel pets provide a sense of purpose
  • 65% say pets help them connect with other people
  • 64% think their pets help them stay physically active
  • 62% find that pets help them stick to a routine
  • 60% say pets help them cope with the physical and emotional symptoms that come with health issues

Dr. Alice Pomidor, a professor of geriatrics with the Florida State University College of Medicine, agrees that pets can be a huge positive when it comes to healthy aging, because furry friends ward off feelings of loneliness, reports WebMD.

“Loneliness in and of itself is a hazard to your health,” Pomidor said. “People have greater rates of chronic disease and an earlier likelihood of illness or death.”

Pets can also help improve lifespans by keeping their owners physical active at an age where it is easy to become more sedentary.

Of course, pets aren’t a fit for everyone. Allergies, costs, limited mobility and responsibility can get in the way. The poll also found that 19% of those who didn’t have pets just weren’t interested in getting an animal companion.

The poll also found that their may be some older adults who cared too much for their pets.

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“While many respondents reported that their pets positively contribute to their health and wellbeing, more than one in four pet owners in fair or poor physical health report their pet’s needs take priority over their own health needs. Health care professionals should be aware of the important role that pets play in the lives of many older adults, as pets have the potential to help, or hinder, self-care and adherence to treatment plans,” University of Michigan said of its findings.

Overall, the university feels that interactions with animal can provide a lot for older adults and recommends that those who can’t have a pet for whatever reason, but still would enjoy contact with animals, look into “volunteering at a local animal shelter, having pet therapy visits, or pet sitting.”