Now, researchers at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, have investigated social isolation among older people, and more specifically the potential association between living with a pet and cognitive decline.
They used data from several waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, including 7,945 participants aged 50 and over, and analysed them between April 1 and June 30 last year.
In detail, their results show that pet ownership was associated with a slower decline in composite verbal cognition, particularly necessary for communicating, reading and writing; and also with a slower decline in verbal memory and verbal fluency.
It should be noted, however, that these results did not apply to all participants: “Pet ownership was associated with slower rates of decline in verbal memory and verbal fluency among older adults living alone, but not among those living with others, and pet ownership offset the associations between living alone and declining rates in verbal memory and verbal fluency.
“Further studies are needed to assess whether pet ownership slows the rate of cognitive decline in older adults living alone,” the authors concluded.
This isn’t the first time the benefits of pets have been highlighted by scientists: US researchers recently showed that dogs and cats could help seniors age better, precisely in the fight against cognitive decline. Meanwhile, several studies have reported the many advantages of living with a pet in promoting wellbeing, and reducing stress and anxiety levels.
Looking after animals gives us a sense of responsibility, commitment, dedication and a chance to love! It is good for us, young and old!
The one important thing for an elderly who has pets is to ensure there is someone else to take over the caring of the pets should an early unexpected demise happens.
I am caring for 17 cats now, but I have appointed already godmothers for my 14 indoors cats in case I do not outlive them. The other 3 are outdoor CNRM-cats, one of whom has a home.