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Aging brings a multitude of life changes which often include isolation and loss of social interaction. Individuals who are homebound due to illness, physical conditions, or mourning the loss of a spouse or significant other, may feel cut off from the outside world and struggle with depression. This, in turn, can lead to complications including anxiety, loneliness, loss of appetite and other health issues.

Psychiatrists at the University of Rochester Medical Center examined 830 primary care patients over age 60 to determine the effects of pet ownership. The study found that 36% of seniors living with pets were less likely to report feelings of loneliness and isolation concluding that sharing a home with a pet can considerably improve an older person’s overall health and well-being. In addition to companionship, pets can provide security, lessen feelings of anxiety, add meaning to one’s life, and help individuals stay social.

Whether you’re 50, 60, or beyond, you’re never too old to share your life with a pet. The key is choosing the right pet for your personality and lifestyle. Here are some tips:

Weigh the Options.

Take time to research the type of pet that is best for you. Consider their personality traits, habits and health care needs. While puppies and kittens are lively balls of fur and fun, older pets are often a better choice.

Consider Your Budget.

While you can’t place a price on the love they provide, pets, regardless of type or breed, need to be factored into your budget. When determining the cost, be sure to include food, bedding, toys, veterinary care, and even grooming.

Today, 25 million US baby boomers own pets. According to the National Council on Aging, bonding with an animal for just 15 minutes sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain that lowers levels of the flight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increases production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

If you are considering a pet, check with your local humane society or animal adoption facility. Their staff will help you choose the one that’s right for you. Your furry friend is waiting!