Pets can play an important role in the mental and physical health of older adults as they age. A number of well-regarded health organizations and clinical studies attest to this – demonstrating, for example, how owning and caring for a pet tends to boost serotonin levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress levels.
The challenge for older adults, however, is making sure that pet care remains manageable over time – that daily tasks associated with feeding, exercising, and, in general, tending to a pet, don’t become too burdensome as mobility and dexterity decline.
Below are some best-in-class products that you may want to consider for yourself or a loved one.
(For now, we've focused on dogs and cats. However, stay tuned for future posts targeted at less conventional pet owners!)
1. "No Stoop" Feeders
Bending down to pick up food and water dishes can get a bit more "creaky" as we age. It's not just the stooping and lifting that can become more of a challenge but the cleaning and mopping up.
Below are a handful of different options to consider. A couple include extended handles and require zero stooping. Others are simply raised feeders that require less bending. When choosing, consider the size of your pet and your personal aesthetic. While heavy duty and machine washable plastic is most common, you can also find slightly more upscale feeders constructed of attractive bamboo.
2. Automatic Feeders
And, for those who feel burdened by daily feedings, there's another option to consider: Automatic Feeders. These are electronic food dispensers that require only periodic refilling. They dispense pre-portioned meals at designated times and can really help lighten the load. Keep in mind that these are best for cats and small dogs (as most feeders don’t have the capacity for the bigger portions required for large dogs). A few of the more popular and well-reviewed offerings you may want to consider:
3. Automatic Water Fountains
Automation also extends to water fountains and, like automatic food dispensers, require only periodic attention. (They may be particularly appealing to those who are tired of picking up, splashing and replacing stagnant bowls of water!) Fountain designs vary widely and are available in heavy duty plastic, stainless steel or ceramic. All, however, integrate replaceable carbon filters and feature small electric motors that generate constant water flow. Below are a handful of the more popular and well-reviewed fountains found on Amazon:
4. Automatic Litter Boxes
Automation is clearly a major theme in this blog post. And, for cat owners who are tired of stooping, scooping and sifting dirty litter boxes, why not? After all, there are a number of high quality options out there that really do the job. Check out the product descriptions and reviews for these best-sellers:
5. No Stoop Pooper Scoopers
Unfortunately, there are no automated options yet for cleaning up after your dog. (Please share if you know of any!) However, there are several brands of long-handled pooper scoopers (what we like to call "no stoop pooper scoopers!") that enable easier clean-up without the bending. There is not a lot of difference in terms of product design but below are a few popular examples that dog owners might want to consider.
6. Dog Harnesses
The good news about walking your dog is that it gets you out of the house, it's healthy exercise, and it leads to social interaction out in the community. The not-so-great news, however, is that it can lead to tripping accidents and serious injuries, particularly for older adults who may no longer have the strength and stability to counteract a sudden pull of the leash.
One solution is to replace your traditional leash with a no-pull, no-choke dog harness. These are dog vests – as opposed to collars – with multiple places to clip a leash. They discourage sudden pulls and they feature top handles so that, if need be, you can gain instant control of your dog. p.s. They're also super comfortable for your dog. Check out the following high quality brands:
7. Easy-to-Throw Toys
Your fastball may not have the same zip but that doesn't mean you can't still play a mean game of fetch – even if you suffer from a little bursitis or arthritis! There are a number of toys on the market that enable you to throw far enough to give your dog some serious exercise. p.s. They're also a lot of fun!
I hope you've enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Please let us know if you have any feedback or any other product recommendations for fellow pet owners. In the meantime, we'll get started on the next installment for owners of more exotic species! : )