ost people read and hear regularly about the importance of staying healthy and

living longer through diet and exercise. While it’s definitely smart to follow that

advice, you can do something else to help keep your mind and body in optimum

condition. Connect with a critter — it goes a long way toward making you happy

and healthy.

Studies have shown that forming a relationship with an animal can have important

health and psychological benefits. Owning a pet or interacting regularly with

animals can lower humans’ blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, and

increase their social interaction. People who have dogs also tend to get more

exercise from regular walks.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of pet you have, whether it’s a cat or a dog, a

fish or a ferret, an iguana or a horse. What’s important is developing a

relationship with an animal. Having a pet often provides people with a reason for

enjoying life and connecting with others.

This can be epecially critical for older adults, who sometimes get socially

isolated or struggle with finding a sense of purpose. It commonly happens after

seniors retire, their spouse dies, their children and grandchildren grow up, or

their families move away.

Owning a pet serves as a wonderful way to rediscover a sense of purpose. It helps

people feel needed and wanted. After all, most people can’t help but smile when

their dog greets them with their tail wagging or their cat curls up cozily on their


Providing for an animal’s needs by going to the pet store or taking a dog for a walk

helps reduce seniors’ social isolation by encouraging them to get out into the

world. They may meet new friends at a dog park or at the pet store when they go to

buy more birdseed.

If a cat or dog is too expensive or needy, consider a more low-maintenance pet like

a fish. Even these critters can provide...

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