Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Closer Look at Pets and Healthy Aging

Two articles involving our group were recently published on the topic of pet ownership and healthy aging.

In a Health & Place paper that stemmed from Ann Toohey's master's thesis, Calgarian dog-owners aged 50+ and who walked their dogs on most days of a usual week were found to score higher, on average, on a sense of community scale than either non-owners or dog-owners who infrequently walked their dogs. Ann has since undertaken a comprehensive investigation of policy for healthy aging in Canadian cities, and completed the coursework for her PhD in Population and Public Health at the University of Calgary.

Meanwhile, Anthrozoos published an article that was led by Chelsea Himsworth and that began as a term paper for her doctoral studies in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. This paper was based on a large-scale survey conducted by Statistics Canada and revealed that pet owners in their senior years were not more satisfied with life, overall, than non-owners. Yet seniors who were living alone, divorced or separated tended to report higher satisfaction with life if they were pet owners. The domestic context, not just pet ownership status, appears to be important to consider. Chelsea is a veterinarian and this article was a sideline; the research that forms the basis of her PhD is known as the Vancouver Rat Project.

Taken together, these articles disrupt simplistic ideas about pets and senior citizens, while underscoring that for many older adults, pets are of vital importance to health and well-being.

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