New Study Will Focus On Benefits Of Pets For Older Americans

In my pet-crazy community, I tend to know my neighbors because of their critters. I know that Jake’s mom and dad always wave to me from their car when they drive by. I know that Lucky the Chihuahua always drags her active and vibrant octogenarian owner Val, over for a chat whenever I’m in my front garden. And that our new neighbors have a chocolate lab named Jackson who always stops to say hello on his walkies – though I’m still trying to remember his dad’s name. No question our pets can act as a four-legged business card, introducing people to one another and generating organic conversation wherever they happen to stroll.

The folks at the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) feel the same way and recently announced they would be awarding a grant of $43,000 to the University of Missouri for a new study that will explore how our pets impact the social engagement and psychological well-being of adults in the 55+ category.

Related: Retirement Communities That Embrace Pets Becomes A Growing Trend

Their goal is to determine if middle-aged (55-64 years) and older (65+) adults are more engaged in the community, participate more, feel greater satisfaction with their life and are less depressed if they own a pet.

Steve Feldman is Executive Director with HABRI and says that with close to 75 million baby boomers entering mid and later adulthood understanding how pets can improve their lives is vital. “With the results of this study in hand, potential pet owners will have new information about the benefits of bringing a pet into their lives, and health care providers could more frequently consider prescribing pets for older Americans in their care.”

Related: HABRI Grants $42,000 To Study Effects Of Service Dogs On War Veterans With PTSD

It all makes sense to me, but how do you begin a project of this magnitude? Apparently data pulled from the recent national Health and Retirement Study will be reviewed by the research team with special emphasis on the findings specific to individuals who participated in an experimental human-animal interaction portion of the study. They’re confident that this data should provide them with a better understanding of how companion animals can impact this rapidly-growing demographic and are hopeful their findings can be released within the year.

The HABRI Foundation maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; to date has funded more than half a million dollars in innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society.


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