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Best friends forever – Owning a pet in retirement

It’s official – Australians love their fur babies. In 2022, over two-thirds of Australian households currently include a pet and over 90% of us have owned a pet at some point in our lives. In fact, statistics show that there are around 29 million pets in Australia – that’s more than pets than people! As we age many Australians find themselves without a pet in their senior years. During their 40s and 50s many of us see our pets move on with our adult children, or otherwise we find convenience in no longer having pets with a busier lifestyle. But as Australians begin to slow down in their senior years, suddenly a gap starts to form that is suspiciously similar in size to a furry friend.

So, what are the benefits of owning a pet in our retirement years? It turns out there are many!

Pets enhance wellbeing

Recent research into the benefits of pets for older people has uncovered a range of social and psychological advantages. For a start, pets can reduce feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of wellbeing and relaxation. For dog owners particularly, physical and social benefits come from exercising the dog and being out and about in the community. There’s nothing like a smiling pup with a wagging tail to increase your chances of social interaction on your daily walk.

Older adults have also reported that caring for a pet has provided a sense of purpose in their lives, particularly for those living alone. Having a pet means that you have committed to living your best life. You’ve taken on the responsibility of a furry friend, but you and your pet are a mutual support for each other. Being invested in making another being happy is the perfect way to release those feel-good brain chemicals.

Often, it is the caring aspect of the pet/owner relationship that brings the most benefits of pets for seniors. To look after a pet properly, one must also look after oneself – exercising, remembering to eat well, and spending time together relaxing or doing something enjoyable. The type of pet does not matter so much as the relationship. Incredibly, some aged care facilities for people living with dementia have introduced therapy programs using robotic pets. These animatronic pets have sensors that respond when touched. The results have been amazing, with carers noting reduced stress levels and improved mood amongst residents. So be it cat, dog, chicken, horse, or robotic companion, time spent with a pet can reduce stress and anxiety and bolster feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

Help for keeping your furry friend

For all these benefits though, a recent survey found that only 11 per cent of pet owners are aged 65 years or older. The main reason for this was that respondents worried about adequately providing for a pet as they grew older. Questions such as, “What happens to my pet if I can’t look after it?” or “What are the best pets for seniors to adopt?” are forefront of people’s minds and can be compounded by a lack of pet-friendly accommodation for older adults.

Luckily, many organisations have already taken the worries of older potential pet owners into account. Many local councils and pet rescue organisations run matching services that help older adults find the perfect companion pet. The RSPCA runs a Seniors for Seniors program, with reduced adoption fees and access to the Home Ever After plan to help address those “What if?” questions that may make an older person hesitant to adopt. The Animal Welfare League Golden Hearts program not only provides options for pet care if the owner requires a hospital stay, it also promotes social activities for older adults and their pets. 

Pets are welcome at TriCare

The benefits of pets for older people are well known in our TriCare Retirement Living communities. We know that home just wouldn’t be home if your best animal friend isn’t right there with you. TriCare Retirement Living communities allow you to bring your small animal companion when you move into one of our beautiful locations. For more information on how our vibrant, social, and active communities can support your and your pet’s ideal retirement lifestyle, book a tour today.