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Not only are pets almost always adorable and heavenly to cuddle, but they also make for the perfect companion for 50+ life.

Whether your kids have grown and the house feels empty, or you’re simply looking for a new adventure, there are so many reasons to consider adding something furry, feathered or even scaled to your home. But the most important reason to do so may be the positive impact pet ownership has wellbeing.In fact, research has shown that having a pet can make a big difference in how we feel as we age by improving our physical, mental and emotional lives. Here’s how:

Pets are People Movers

We all know that dogs are full of energy and it’s their owner’s responsibility to make sure they get exercise – and, as a result, the owner gets exercise, too.  A recent study conducted by the University of Missouri showed that people over 50 who owned dogs were more likely to get in their recommended weekly exercise levels, have a lower Body Mass Index and experience better mobility.   While these positive health benefits apply specifically to dogs, there’s another type of pet that also provides a great reason to exercise.

If you’ve always been a horse lover, now might be the ideal time in life to experience the joys of riding, as well as the physical exertion owning a horse requires, including the time you’ll spend mucking out your horse’s stall.  Given the effort and expense, owning a horse is not for everyone. But if you fantasized about owning a horse as a girl, and if you’re in the position to do so, now could be the perfect time for your dream to come true.

Pets Connect You to People

Staying social is a key factor in maintaining good mental and emotional health as we age, and owning a pet is a natural way to ensure interaction with others. Dogs are exceptional at breaking the ice, and if it’s a canine you select as your pet, she’ll make it easier for you to talk with neighbors as you pass by on a walk and with other dog walkers, too. Go to the dog park, and it’s almost impossible not to socialize with the owners of the dogs that play with yours.  Owning other types of pets can have the same result. There are clubs, events, online groups and more for many types of pets – from birds to ferrets – and all of these provide opportunities to create a more active social life.

Pets are Good for Your Health

In addition to making sure you exercise, owning a pet has other physiological benefits. In fact, interacting with your dog, cat, horse, bird or hamster can actually be healthier for individuals than interacting with friends who have the propensity to be critical.  Pet ownership can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and stress, improve survival rates after a heart attack and relieve the depression that often goes hand-in-hand with a serious illness. Whether you’re very healthy today or dealing with a health concern, a pet can be the perfect prescription.  

Pets Make You a Better Person

You may have seen a poster or t-shirt that reads: Let me be the person my dog thinks I am.  If you haven’t, all it takes is being greeted at the front door by your dog to understand it.  A dog will meet you with excitement, without judgment and as if you were the best creature that ever walked the face of the earth. They each have so much to teach us about love, gratitude and living life to the fullest.  Cats, too, can make you feel like a queen, curling through your legs and with a meow that seems to say, “Hey, where have you been all my life!”

The truth is that all types of pets require us to be responsible, disciplined and caring; and to establish a routine and stick to it. Plus, each type of pet has different lessons to pass on. Since our 50+ years are often a time of continued personal growth and self-actualization, especially for women on a mission to be their best selves, a pet can be one of the best person-growing tools you’ll find.

Pets are Woman’s Best Friend

If you do have grown children or live alone – and even if you have a husband or romantic partner and lots of human friends – there’s no denying that our pet tends to become one of our most trusted and closest companions.  Pets are always there for you, and it often seems like they are taking care of their owners just as much as their owners are taking care of them. They’re at your side demanding a cuddle, sharing a purr or simply entertaining you with their antics just when you need a distraction the most.

From waking up every day feeling needed to regularly receive the touch and contact that grooming, petting, and playing require, pets are truly woman’s best friend in so many ways. Whether you’re experiencing loneliness after 50 or simply want to take on a new best friend, nothing tends to fill the need for companionship the same way a furry, feathered or even scaled companion can.