The problem of loneliness amongst many senior people is an all too familiar problem in our society – particularly at Christmas time. But can pets help combat this problem?
This second part of the Vetsure ‘Special Relationship’ Census 2014, entitled ‘The Miracle of Pet Companionship’, found that a large proportion of people aged over 55 find a huge comfort in their pet – nearly 30% suggesting that they find more comfort in their pets than they do in their friends or family. More than three-quarters admitted to talking to their pet regularly with 35% saying they would be most likely to confide or seek comfort in their pet on a daily basis. Further, these findings are not just apparent in more senior pet owners, with many younger people surveyed expressing similar feelings.
There is growing scientific evidence to suggest that companion animals can improve feelings of support as well as promote social interactions with other people. Companion animals can help to protect the elderly against ill health and reduce their visits to the doctors. In the current economic climate, and in the face of spiraling healthcare costs, there is perhaps a greater need than ever to consider novel approaches to preventive healthcare, such as the value of animal companionship.
Pets can offer elderly people companionship and a sense of responsibility. Dogs can also encourage people to get out of the house where possible, driving interaction with other dog owners in the park. For those less mobile, a cat on thelap can offer enormous comfort. But this is not just an issue for more senior people - for families, pets have an enormous role in helping our children cope with all the stresses of growing up and can help promote confidence and social skills. In the hectic bustle of day-to-day life, a pet can offer enormous companionship to the working professional. Pets don’t judge us, they are incredibly forgiving of our faults and usually give more than they get from the relationship. In todays world of stress, global turmoil and cynicism, pets are increasingly filling a void in parts of many people’s lives in a very positive way. It’s time we appreciated that as a society.