Companion animals keep older human owners mentally sharper for longer?

A University of Michigan Medical Center study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, and which is as yet unpublished online, found increased cognitive powers in companion animal caregivers over the age of 65 compared with those who did not live with a companion animal.

Elderly person and cat
Elderly person and cat. Pic in public domain.
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A reminder that cats reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

They are unsure whether the presence of the animal improved the cognitive abilities of these people or whether people who live with companion animals are simply smarter or had inherited genes which allowed them to retain their cognitive abilities for longer into later life. But they did find this connection and one proposition is that because companion animals reduce stress the brain is damaged less by stress.

Dr. Tiffany Braley, the lead author of the study, said: “Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress. Our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.”

Elderly person and cat
Elderly person and cat. Photo in public domain.

There were 1,300 participants in the study with an average age of 65 of which 53% lived with a companion animal and almost 33% of this group had owned their companion animal for more than five years.

They found that after six years long-term companion animal caregivers saw less of a fall in the average cognitive ability score than those without pets.

Another aspect of living with a companion animal is that if you have a dog you go for walks regularly. Walking is good for health both physical and mental.

RELATED: Benefits of a Cat Companion to the Elderly

But as mentioned, it may be the case that smarter people tend to adopt companion animals more often than those who are less smart which would make sense because living with a companion animal is a smart move 😉👌. It is good for health and well-being both for the human hand the animal as it happens. This is especially so if you adopt a rescue cat or dog which should be the default position.

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