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Pet Power

Whether taking a dog for a walk, snuggling with a kitten on your lap, or listening to a bird trill, owning a pet is good for the health of older adults. Pet ownership is commonplace among older adults. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, it is estimated that more than half of adults over 50 have a pet.

What are some of the physical, mental and emotional benefits those pet owners receive? The list is extensive:

A sense of purpose:

Three-quarters of pet owners aged 50 to 80 say their Pet Power animals reduce their stress and give them a sense of purpose, according to a University of Michigan poll.

A comforting presence:

That same poll found older pet owners whose health was fair or poor, found benefits from interacting with pets. More than 70 percent said their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms, and 46 percent said their pets help take their mind off of pain.

Owning a dog increases physical activity.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Study of Aging, found that pet owners who owned dogs reported better overall health and more physical activity over the previous year compared to non-pet owners. According to another study published in The Gerontologist, dog walking is associated with lower body mass, fewer limitations on activities of daily living, and more frequent moderate and vigorous exercise.

A cat increases physical activity, too.

Cats spend a lot of time sleeping, but they also require care. Feeding them, playing with them, making sure they have water, and cleaning their litter box are all routines that can help keep older adults staying active while providing them with mental stimulation. For a person with arthritis or other physical limitation, owning a cat may be a good choice, according to the American Humane Society.

Maintaining brain power

A study presented at the American Academy of Neurology asserts that owning a pet such as a cat or dog, especially for five years or longer, may be linked to a slower cognitive decline in older adults. The study looked at pet owners and non-pet owners over a six-year period and found that cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners.

Heart health:

Maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart health isn’t linked to just one factor. Diet, genetics, exercise and many other factors play a role. But the Harvard Health School of Medicine reports that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners, which is probably because pets have a calming effect on their owners. Furthermore, dog owners tend to get more exercise.

Reducing depression:

The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine reports that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. A pet provides companionship, which decreases feelings of loneliness and isolation. And everyone benefits from their pet’s unconditional love.

Dog-friendly places in Charlotte:

Pets are welcome at Barclay at SouthPark, and residents don’t even have to leave home to let their dogs romp or run safely in a gated, grassy canine courtyard located on the property.

A bit farther afield, the community’s website includes a map detailing locations nearby of dog parks, groomers, boarding services and veterinarians.

There are also plenty of other ways for residents to get out and enjoy their dogs. Charlotte on the Cheap website provides a list of dog-friendly parks. BringFido has a list of restaurants and bars where your pooch will be welcome to sit at your feet while you eat and socialize.

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