Pets’ power to prevent older people’s loneliness and anxiety
- One in five older people wish they had a pet but 63% say old age prevents them from doing so
- More than half of pet owners worry about not being able to keep a pet in older age
- Older pet owners rely on their pets for company more than they do their family and friends
- Having a pet makes older people less anxious, and increases happiness and opportunities for exercise
- Only 4% of older people would opt for a robot pet over a real one
New research by Anchor has revealed that one in five older people wish they owned a pet and that most older pet owners rely on their pets for company more than they do their friends, children or neighbours. Despite this, there is a misplaced worry among older people that pets and pensioners don’t mix.
The research found that 63% of people over the age of 65 think that getting older reduces your chance of being able to keep a pet, with half (51%) of older pet owners worrying about a future without their beloved animals.
Anchor conducted the research to correct this misconception and address the fact that 80% of older people wrongly assume care homes do not allow you to keep a pet, or are unaware that you can. Anchor has a welcoming pet policy, encouraging residents to reap the benefits that pets can offer to residents.
The findings also highlight the many benefits that pets can have on older people.
The majority (62%) of over 65s say having a pet makes you less lonely – a figure not to be overlooked considering that loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.
Furthermore, in addition to offering companionship, 37% of older people think pets boost your chances of meeting new people.
Showing the true meaning of creature comforts, a third (30%) of over 65s think a pet reduces feelings of anxiety and 28% believe they increase happiness.
Whether walking the dog or chatting to the budgie, other benefits include pets’ ability to get older people up and about more often. 55% of over 75s think owning a pet encourages you to be outside more often, while 45% think they make you more active within the home.
Amidst suggestions that robotic pets would be a welcome solution for loneliness among older people, the research identified older people’s preference for the real thing - with just 4% saying they’d opt for a robot pet over a real one.
About the research, Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor, said: “At Anchor, we see pets as part of the family so it’s only right that our care homes and retirement housing properties have a welcoming pet policy that encourages residents and their animals to stay together. We’re considerate to the impact that each new pet would have on residents already living with us and make arrangements accordingly.”
“Of course, being a pet owner isn't right for everyone. This is why we also welcome our care homes to have communal pets that residents can take shared responsibility for and that all can enjoy.”
Showcasing Anchor’s resident’s most loved pets is a new gallery of images and quotes with Doris (94) and her dog Bonnie, Gladys (90) and cats Laurel and Hardy, Joan (81) with budgies Marlene and Boycie, and Mary (87) with rabbits Mollie and Millie.
Doris Moore, who lives at Anchor care home Elizabeth Court, said of her dog Bonnie, who is 16 years old: “It meant everything to me that I could move into Elizabeth Court with Bonnie, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was the main reason I chose this care home. I adopted her eight years ago, so we’re just two old pensioners living together! Bonnie is my treasure and we provide each other with comfort and companionship every day. The other residents also love Bonnie as she brings such joy to the home.”