Pets can benefit elder owners
March 9, 2020

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

Q: My elderly mother’s dog passed away several months ago. She sometimes forgets the dog is no longer here and she gets very upset when she can’t find him. I think it would be a good idea to get her a new pet but my other siblings disagree. They are concerned walking and training a young puppy will be too much for her. My mother can afford the costs of owning an animal so that isn’t an issue. Can you provide information to try and change my siblings mind about this?

A: Research supports your instincts on many levels. Numerous studies indicate owning a pet can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction and encourage physical activity. The loving companionship of a pet can have a profound effect on depression and loneliness.

Older adults who own pets have discovered they have a focus beyond just their own problems. Pets give them a sense of purpose to follow a routine that may have been lost after retirement. Regardless of what the pet is their owner knows they need to be fed and cared for on a daily basis.

There are options on what kind of pet would be best for your mother. If she is definitely a “dog person” as opposed to a “cat person” (or bird/fish) a puppy may not be the right purchase. A young animal definitely is going to require an investment of time in training. There are dog training classes in most communities but a more mature animal which is already house broken and leash trained may be the best choice. Shelters often have a selection of adult dogs which are just waiting for a forever home. The shelters can be very helpful in helping to match pets to potential owners.

If your mother has days when she doesn’t have the energy to walk the dog or mobility becomes an issue she might be able to find a reliable dog walker to hire.


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

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