According to a recent study, owning a pet can lead to mental sharpness and lower the rate of cognitive decline in older adults who live alone. This article examines this finding and the health benefits of having a pet.
How Was The Study Conducted?
For the study, experts used data from nearly 8,000 individuals enrolled in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Participants were asked yearly to perform several tests measuring verbal memory and fluency.
After comparing pet owners and non-pet owners over nine years, the analysis revealed that pet owners who lived alone had slower rates of decline in verbal memory and fluency than those without pets.
Is The Study Relevant?
This new study also provides insight into the effect of pet ownership on older adults living alone, a growing segment of the American population that’s particularly vulnerable to cognitive decline.
Researchers also believe that pet ownership could potentially reduce the detrimental effects of loneliness, either through companionships provided by the pets, or through more social engagement like the community benefits of dog parks.
What Are The Benefits of Owning a Pet?
To begin with, owning a pet can help you reduce stress, which is also connected to cognitive decline. Pet interactions can also boost physical activity as a 2019 UK study discovered that most dog owners spent nearly 300 minutes weekly walking their dogs, about 200 more minutes of walking than people without dogs.
Pet ownership can also provide you with a sense of purpose, which is linked with healthy aging and less risk of having dementia.
Is More Research Needed?
The study authors acknowledged that the findings are limited because only two cognitive domains were tested. As such, more research is needed to fully understand how to slow cognitive decline with age.
This would include more prospective research that assesses the intensity and duration of pet ownership and uses more in-depth cognitive measures in a more diverse group. Researchers said this could improve the understanding of how pet ownership may affect cognitive decline.
What To Consider When Adopting a Pet
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, here are some tips for selecting the best pet:
● Consider the costs of food, grooming, housing, and vet care to ensure it doesn’t ruin your budget
● Ensure your work and travel schedule will allow you to provide your pet with the attention it needs
● Consider what you want in a pet and what you can provide
A new study shows that pets can slow the cognitive decline in older adults. While more research is needed, pets can help you reduce stress, boost physical activity, and a sense of purpose.