Joan Koczor Maricopa
Joan Koczor

According to the National Pet Owners Survey, more than 84 million homes in the United States have a pet. During COVID-19, pet adoption from shelters has soared nationwide.

Dog and cats have a calming effect on their owners and can reduce stress. Anxiety is reduced by just having a pet to take care of. They can reduce the anxiety of going out alone because they can go out with you – at the same time encouraging us to get extra exercise.

Pets love their routines, and if we don’t stick to their routines they will feel out of sorts. So, we get up at a specific time, take our dog for a walk, feed him at his regular time and so on. Your pet’s routine gives structure to your day, especially important to those who live alone.

While self-isolating during COVID-19, older adults have relied on pets for companionship. Having a pet provides an opportunity to stay connected and more active. Pets encourage them to move more, laugh at their antics and, most important, get more exercise. Simply put, having a pet means a better lifestyle for older adults.

Having a pet helps older adults keep their minds active by making them remember specific things and times. Keeping the brain active is a good thing.

Pet-friendly senior housing units are seeing the benefits of allowing cats, small dogs and other small animals, such as goldfish or birds. For many, the transition from independent living to assisted living is a huge adjustment. The thought of leaving a beloved pet can be unbearable. Having a pet provides emotional security.

Allowing pets in a senior living community has many benefits. It allows a smooth transition for seniors leaving a home they may have lived in for years. In addition, the benefits for seniors are reduced depression, feeling better about oneself and being emotionally happier, which can only add to their well-being.

Nothing compares to the joy of being greeted by your family pet. The unconditional love they provide does more than keep you company. Pets of any kind – dog, cat, goldfish or any other animal – can have a positive effect on your mood and overall health.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee. 

This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.