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Benefits of Having a Pet During Retirement

Pets are great at any stage of life. They offer unconditional love, companionship, a sense of responsibility and even an opportunity to interact with other people. Having an animal companion may be especially wonderful during retirement. Older pet owners are getting so many benefits from their animal companions, in fact, that they want to take their pets everywhere they go.

Not long ago, though, most establishments strictly forbid pets. Over the years, pet ownership and animal-assisted therapy have become increasingly popular in the United States. About 68% of households in the U.S. own a pet today, according to statistics gathered in the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, compared with 56% of American households in 1988.

The increase in pet ownership has prompted researchers to study its benefits. The rising number of pet owners has also prompted many businesses and communities to open their doors to animal companions. More places in Tampa embrace the pet-friendly lifestyle every day. Restaurants, spas, malls and even senior living communities now open their doors to furry and feathered friends of all varieties.

Here is what you need to know about the benefits of having a pet during retirement, and a few pet-friendly places near Tampa, FL.

Benefits of Animal Companionship and Ownership during Retirement

Having a pet just makes sense for many older adults. Pets are cute, loyal and fun to be around. A mountain of scientific research shows that animal companionship and ownership can even provide a number of benefits for older adults specifically.

A pet gives people something to care for, and everyone likes to feel needed. Caring for another living being can also cause someone to take better care of him or herself.

Providing daily care for a pet also creates a routine for the human. Routines help reduce stress and anxiety in older adults, increase feelings of safety and security and improve sleep. This is especially true in adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, who have trouble adapting to changes in a routine. The simple acts of feeding a pet, going for walks and even taking naps help older adults maintain a healthy and comfortable routine.

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Reduces loneliness

Loneliness can be an unwelcome companion for some older adults, and this loneliness can lead to depression and physical health problems. PBS News Hour reviewed several studies about loneliness and isolation. They found that 43% of older adults in one study said that they were lonely.

Healthline says that loneliness can raise blood pressure, increase depression, interfere with sleep, weaken the immune system and increase inflammation in ways that lead to disease or infection. Chronic loneliness can lead to cognitive decline. In fact, lonely adults ages 65 and older have a 20% faster cognitive decline than do other adults of the same age who are not lonely. Loneliness can even increase the risk of death.

Healthline suggests a number of ways to connect to reduce loneliness, and adopting a pet made the list. Life as an older adult can be lonely, especially for those who have lost a spouse, and pets provide good company. Pets love attention and often respond with affection. But, perhaps the best thing about an animal companion is that they don’t talk back!

Pet ownership, especially dog ownership, can also increase sociability to reduce loneliness. Dog owners have the opportunity to meet and engage with others during daily walks. Trips to the dog park also create opportunities to encounter others with similar interests.

Opportunity for exercise

Pet owners also benefit from increased physical activity. One study found that dog owners walk up to 22 minutes more each day than do people who do not own dogs.

The researchers in that study also found that the walkers strolled along at a brisk 3 mph, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines as moderate intensity exercise. The CDC says that engaging in moderate intensity exercise can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Walking at a moderately intense pace can strengthen your bones and muscles, boost your mood and support mental health, improve your ability to do everyday activities and even reduce your risk of falls. Moderate intensity exercise can even reduce your risk of developing some types of cancers and increase your chances of living longer.

The authors of another study, published in The Gerontologist medical journal, concluded their research by saying that dog walking, “was associated with lower body mass index, fewer activities of daily living limitations, fewer doctor visits, and more frequent moderate and vigorous exercise.”

You can enjoy all of these health benefits, just from walking your pet at a brisk pace a few times each day!

Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease

One study, published by the American Heart Association, shows that simply owning a pet could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. This exhaustive study looked into every aspect of owning a dog or cat and the effects that pet ownership has on cardiovascular health, including its effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, obesity, the body’s reaction to stress and more.

Reduces pain

Simply visiting with an animal can reduce the need for pain medicine. A 2014 study by Loyola University Health System shows that animal therapy lowers the need for pain medications after joint replacement surgery. In that study, some of the participants received daily visits from specially trained dogs that lasted five to 15 minutes. The other participants did not interact with these dogs. The group that visited with the pups required 28% less oral pain medication than did the group that did not interact with these dogs.

“The animal-human connection is powerful in reducing stress and in generating a sense of well-being,” said lead author of the study, Julia Havey, MSN, RN, CCM, from Loyola University Health System. “This study further demonstrates the positive influence animals can have on human recovery.”

Pet-friendly Locations in and Near Tampa

There are now literally hundreds of pet-friendly locations in and near Tampa. This includes a wide variety of dog parks and dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and even shopping!

Dog Parks

Because of the beaches and beautiful weather, Tampa has some of the best dog parks in the nation. Here are just a few of the great parks to take Fido.

Picnic Island Beach Dog Park

Picnic Island Beach Dog Park provides a place for dogs to play off-leash on the beach. The area is not fully fenced, so owners should keep a close eye on their pups at play. Picnic Island Beach Dog Park is located at 7404 Picnic Island Blvd in Tampa.

Logan Gate Dog Park

Located in the Citrus Park/Carrollwood area, Logan Gate Dog Park is a relatively new dog park. The spacious five-acre play area features a six-foot fence. It also has double-gated entries to keep pets safer. The play area has two separate access areas, one for small and one for large dogs. There are also water fountains for dogs and people, picnic tables, shelters, a hitching post and even dog washes and doggie mitt receptacles for your convenience.

Logan Gate Dog Park is located at 7374 Monterey Blvd. This park is free and open sunrise to sunset.

Davis Island Dog Park

Dogs can play off-leash in a designated area of Davis Island Dog Park, located at 1002 Severn Ave. Dogs who love to romp on the beach are sure to like Davis Island Dog Park.

West Park Dog Park

West Park Dog Park is the first dog park in Hillsborough County, according to BringFido. Its gigantic play area also features two individual access areas to separate small and large pups, water fountains for people and dogs, shelters, shade trees, picnic tables, dog washes and doggie mitt receptacles. The park also has adjacent baseball fields and a children’s playground.

West Park Dog Park is located at 6402 N Occident St, which is on the western part of the county near Tampa International Airport.

Hotels

Being able to travel with a pet helps older adults continue enjoying the benefits of pet ownership, even while on the road. Finding a pet-friendly hotel used to be stressful. Fortunately, there are now more than 50 pet-friendly hotels in Tampa, according to BringFido. Many of these locations do not charge a pet fee and accept dogs of all sizes.

La Quinta Inn Tampa Near Busch Gardens accepts large dogs, for example, as does La Quinta Inn Tampa Bay Airport. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa provides upscale accommodations and allows up to two dogs, up to 40 lbs, but charges an additional fee of $100 per pet. There are a number of pet-friendly hotels in between.

Shopping and Spas

Shopping isn’t just for humans – some pets like to get in on the action!

Discount Nutrition Tampa

Discount Nutrition Tampa invites patrons to bring their pets along as they shop for supplements, sports nutrition, general health and weight management items. Discount Nutrition Tampa is located at 5725 Gunn Hwy.

Paws Aboard

Older adults want to stay active and have fun during retirement, and so do their dogs. Paws Aboard offers fun and interactive dog supplies, such as high quality doggy life jackets, doggy boat ladders, boosters and restraint systems to help keep pets active alongside their owners. Paws Aboard is located at 5424 W Crenshaw St in Tampa.

Spoil Me Dog Spa

Spoil Me Dog Spa offers high quality grooming. Dog lovers can find Spoil Me Dog Spa at 2307 S Dale Mabry Hwy.

Dining

There are more than 200 pet-friendly restaurants in Florida, according to BringFido. Many of them offer special menus, smoothies, treats and water bowls to satisfy the needs of every canine companion.

Sail Pavilion on the Riverwalk

Sail Pavilion on the Riverwalk, or “The Sail,” is Tampa’s only 360-degree waterfront restaurant and bar – and it is dog-friendly. Along with its spectacular 360-degree view, The Sail offers a menu of salads, sandwiches, a kids’ menu and light appetizers. Pups can enjoy free doggy treats, cool drinks from stainless-steel dog water dishes, a dog menu with delicious doggie smoothies and a cleanup station. This waterfront retreat is located along the Tampa Riverwalk at 333 S Franklin St.

Ybor City Food Tours Pet-Friendly Tour

Ybor City Food Tours Pet-Friendly Tour is a 2-hour tasting tour that provides a chance to squeeze in a little exercise with a walking tour of the historic Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. Pets and their owners complete the tour by dining at the pet-friendly pirate bar and restaurant, Gaspar’s Grotto.

GrillSmith Restaurant

GrillSmith Restaurant in the Carrollwood area of Tampa has a spacious outdoor patio where pets can sit with their owners. The menu offers BBQ pulled pork flatbread, spicy Thai shrimp, center-cut sirloin, bourbon salmon and chicken caprese.

Eureka Springs County Park

Pet owners and dogs can embark on a romp across a boardwalk and through a marsh, sniff around the small garden areas, amble down walking trails and take a break in the picnic areas. Dogs must be leashed at all times; there is an entry fee of $2 per vehicle. Eureka Springs County Park is located at 6400 Eureka Springs Rd.

Tessera of Westchase is a vibrant assisted living and memory care community in beautiful Tampa, FL. Our spacious grounds and welcoming atmosphere makes Tessera of Westchase a comfortable and safe space for both you and your animal companion. To learn more about how you and your four-legged friend can enjoy life at Tessera of Westchase, contact us today.

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