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The Golden Years is a period of life to look forward to when you’ll have the freedom to pursue your passions and live each day, well, for you. Retirement can also feel daunting. The idea of too much time to yourself, or how to spend your time, can be overwhelmed with other decisions, like where you’ll live and if downsizing is in the cards sooner rather than later.

The one thing that’s certain is it’s as important to focus on your health later in life, if not more. One of the things you can do is add a furry, four-legged companion to the family! Pet ownership can have many benefits for older adults. Aside from constant companionship and unconditional love, according to the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Research shows that pets can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, raise blood oxytocin levels, and, in some cases, may reduce direct pain. According to Bayer, people living with dogs are 15 percent less likely to die from heart disease.”

Did you know that pet ownership could have such impactful health benefits?

Three Ways Pets Are an Investment in Your Health

1.    Don’t underestimate the power of companionship. Pets provide company on their own, as well as provide opportunities for their owners to socialize in other ways such as at the Dog Park, at the Vet, and while shopping for supplies. This companionship and socialization helps “lower blood pressure, slows heart rate, and has a positive effect on the body’s levels of stress-modulating hormones, particularly cortisol and dopamine,” according to Psychology Today . Cortisol helps control blood sugar, metabolism, and reduce inflammation, while dopamine is your body’s natural mood booster.

2.    Their presence reduces stress and anxiety by increasing the presence of the “happy hormone” Oxytocin. It’s no surprise animals are used as therapeutic companions!

3.    They provide purpose to your day. Having to care for a living being is a powerful motivator.

Pets are also a great responsibility. They require attention, financial support, and the energy to be loved and cared for properly. Below are seven tips for pet owners to ensure a happy, healthy, mutually beneficial relationship.

1.    Consider adoption! Especially of an older animal. Not only does this give them a second lease on life, but chances are these older animals are already socialized and house-trained, making less work for you. Rescues are also often more affordable than brand-new “designer” puppies.

2.    Be honest about your physical ability. Pets, especially dogs, make you more mobile. They require walks, playtime, feeding, and grooming. This can be extremely beneficial to your lifestyle. However, if you aren’t able to keep up with the kind of exercise regime that say, a large dog breed requires, consider hiring a dog walker, looking into a different breed, or another type of pet, like a fish.

3.    Pets are a time commitment. Love to travel? Perhaps forgo the dog in favour of a fish, which is easier for the neighbour to care for in your absence. Research carefully what kind of pet, or breed of animal you decide on, is best suited to your lifestyle.

4.    Budget for pet expenses. There’s the food, treats, supplies, pet insurance, vet visits, and unforeseen circumstances. Pet ownership isn’t a cheap investment, so it’s important to plan ahead!

Tip: A high-quality diet (including fresh water, always!) while may be more expensive, will ensure better health in the long run and that means fewer trips to the vet. But do schedule regular check-ups to catch anything before it becomes a real problem.

5.    Always ensure your pet has the proper vaccinations and has been spayed or neutered so you’re not dealing with an unexpected new member of the family any time soon!

6.    Pet policies. Unless you live in your own, detached home, ensure you read your retirement residence or apartment building’s pet policies carefully! If they’re welcome, size restrictions, etc. may apply. Verve Senior Living welcomes pets!

7.    Consider your personality, as well as that of your potential pet! Older pets, like people, have set personalities. Cats are very different than dogs. Fish are well…fish. What type of animal, breed, and age of pet best suits your lifestyle, abilities, and likes?

If you’ve decided that pet ownership will add to your quality of life during the Golden Years, congratulations! We hope the above tips will help you make an informed decision on the best pet for you and you enjoy the many years of companionship to come.

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