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Should Older People Adopt an Older Dog?

RSPCA urges lonely people to volunteer or adopt a pet in bid to tackle loneliness Pets can keep lonely people company and help them meet new people.

As the Royal College of General Practitioners revealed the health dangers associated with loneliness, the RSPCA is urging anyone feeling the effects of being alone to consider taking on a rescue animal.

More than 1.1m people are thought to be chronically lonely with 17% of older people having human contact less than once a week.

The Royal College of General Practitioners recently revealed that loneliness can be as bad for someone’s health as having a long-term illness such as diabetes.

The RSPCA is urging friends, relatives and neighbours of anyone they suspect of feeling lonely to consider rehoming an animal or taking up volunteering.

Dr Julia Wrathall, chief scientific officer at the RSPCA, said: “Adopting a pet can be a fantastic way to combat loneliness and animals can make wonderful companions for those who find themselves alone. As well as pets helping people, pairing lonely people with a suitable animal could also help to ease pressure on the animal welfare charities and rescue centres across the country who are full to bursting with unwanted pets. And of course, it can provide the opportunity for a wonderful new life for a needy animal too.

“As well as providing vital companionship to people who live alone, there are also a number of other benefits to owning a pet. Evidence suggests that when we stroke animals – or in the case of dogs, when we just look into their eyes – our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that brings about bonding between individuals as well as helping us feel more optimistic and lowering blood pressure.

“Owning a dog also makes people less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress and can encourage people to get out and about for exercise and can also help initiate interaction with other pet owners.”

The RSPCA rehomes more than 47,000 animals each year and the animal welfare charity – the biggest and oldest in the UK – takes in all sorts of animals from dogs, cats and rabbits to birds, reptiles, fish, rodents and even equines and farm animals.

The charity’s staff and volunteers work tirelessly to rescue animals, rehabilitate them and then match them with the perfect owner. If you’d like to rehome an RSPCA animal, please go online.

“Of course, owning a pet may not be suitable for everybody and it’s essential that the many responsibilities associated with taking on an animal are fully understood beforehand,” Dr Wrathall added.

“There are also other ways to help animals while also tackling loneliness. People could foster an animal in order to have a companion without taking on a long-term commitment or could even volunteer at a local charity shop or animal centre to meet other like-minded people and interact with animals awaiting new homes.

“Whatever takes your fancy, interacting with animals can be a great way not only to overcome loneliness in people but also to help improve the lives of the many animals in need as well.”

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