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Older people encouraged to adopt pets in order to combat loneliness

17th August 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

A government minister has suggested that interaction with animals should be encouraged, in order to help older people overcome loneliness and social isolation. Lord Prior, a welfare minister, would like local authorities to begin recommending the adoption of a pet to lonely pensioners in a bid to tackle the problem. This follows a recent report that revealed more than one million older people can go an entire month without speaking to anyone, which was branded by health secretary Jeremy Hunt as a ‘national shame’.

In the House of Lords, Lord Prior of Brampton was asked by Lord Hanningfield if the government had made any strategies for encouraging older people to adopt or interact with pets. The question was raised because of research that has shown that pet ownership can enhance people’s lives, with one of these benefits being that loneliness and social exclusion is lessened. Other benefits include a lower risk of a heart attack and reduced levels of anxiety.

Local authorities encouraged to recommend interaction with pets

In response, according to a Telegraph article, Lord Prior suggested that it would be appropriate for local authorities to suggest the adoption of a pet to those who are ‘lonely or depressed’. However, he also stated that this would depend on the individual’s health and the specific needs of their condition. For example, a pet could prove to be a lifeline for someone who is unable to leave their home often, due to being reliant on a wheelchair or a stairlift in the home.

Studies have suggested that loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity, which is putting pressure on the government to provide support for those who are affected. However, Jeremey Hunt has warned that the NHS cannot be held solely responsible for looking after older people, which is why he recently called for the help of society.

A spokesman for Age UK said that pets “can be a great comfort, providing companionship if we live alone or don’t have regular contact with friends and family”, although this may not be for everyone as our article ‘Should you get a pet to combat loneliness?’ explains.

Image Credit: Smabs Sputzer (flickr.com)

This content was written by Emily Bray. Please feel free to visit my Google + profile to read more stories.