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Pets give older people life satisfaction

PET OWNERSHIP improves the lives of older people living in sheltered accommodation, recent new research reveals.

The research, which has been released ahead of a major conference exploring the roles of pets in the lives of older people, was carried out on behalf of the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) and questioned pet and non-pet owning subjects, with an average of 75 years, in sheltered housing units in and around London.

The study indicated that older pet owners felt more satisfied with life than the non-owners and that the group consistently scored higher in all areas involving self care, getting about the home, relating to others and life satisfaction.

Regular contact with family owners was 96 per cent for non-pet owners in the homes and only 79 per cent for pet owners, possibly indicating the importance of pets in elderly people’s lives.
Dr June McNicholas, a psychologist who has spent 15 years researching the effects of pet ownership on human health, supervised the research.

McNicholas said: ‘The choice to own pets is an important part of a chosen lifestyle which can contribute to health and happiness if permitted, but to discontent if it is denied. There is a strong consensus of opinion among older people, vets, animal shelters and health professionals that the process of growing old should not simply be seen in terms of giving up what were once important lifestyle choices. Rather the focus should be on maintaining those aspects that can be preserved intact. With help, pet ownership can be one of them’.

This and other research exploring the roles of pets in the lives of older people will be lunched at a conference organised by SCAS, in partnership with the charity Age Concern at the Charity Centre, London, on Wednesday 4 May.

The conference, which will also address the obstacles faced by older people who would benefit from contact with pets, will be of interest to anyone concerned with the well-being of older people, particularly GPs, social workers, health visitors, care home providers and sheltered housing managers.

For information about the many roles pets play in the lives of older people or to reserve a place at the SCA conference, please call SCAS on 01993 825597, email or visit