Friday, December 23, 2011

What Good are Pets?

Many of us, especially those who have raised children, have had a pet at one time or another.  Now that the children are on their own we think its their turn to enjoy the pleasures as well as the troubles that come with having a pet. Our relationships with animals as members of the family are over.  Some say, “I enjoy seeing them in the wild, but not in the house.  I’ll watch them on TV on nature shows, but that’s my limit.”  The reasons are obvious: the dog walking (if the pet is a dog), the expense of buying animal food, the gnawing of furniture and the inevitable accidents, not to mention the pain of seeing a pet sicken and die. For all these reasons it may seem counter intuitive to advocate pets for seniors. Let’s give it a try anyway.

A good pet is therapy. Who needs it? For seniors who live alone a pet makes the best of companions.  Once you admit you love dogs or cats or birds, the pros quickly outweigh the cons.  If the pet is a small dog you can train them to use newspaper and, of course, a cat has its litter box. What is sweeter than opening the door to your home and having a little creature greet you with unconditional love? You cuddle up with your pet to watch the evening news and make uncontested commentary on the reporting while scratching your pet’s head.  What more can you ask for? It’s this companionship that makes any inconvenience of having a pet worthwhile.

Cons and Pros
Nonetheless, there things to keep in mind:  Where is the nearest veterinarian, how expensive is pet food, is there someone who can keep your dog when you go on vacation or can you take him with you?  Who will walk the dog when it snows? Still there are animals that are companionable yet require less attention, such as fish in an aquarium and birds in a cage.  They’re not completely task free, but require less than a cat or dog.

Are there health benefits to living with a pet?  Pets are known to reduce emotional and physical pain. According to, studies have shown that petting animals can bring down blood pressure and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain that elevates mood.  It isn’t surprising that seniors who own pets visit the doctor less often than those who don’t.  Is there a pet in your future?  For the sake of your health, it’s worth a thought!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tired of being tired?

Have you noticed how often the answer to your question,  “ How are you?” is “ So tired”.
What is this tiredness all about?  You might also notice that people who are happily on the go rarely say they’re tired.  Tiredness might have something to do with not expending energy.  It appears to be counter-intuitive to say the more you move, the more energy you have. If you’re tired, sleep.  Not always.  If you’re tired in the middle of the morning, move. Notice when you lie on the couch how easy it is to fall asleep. Move to generate energy and feel alive!
When you are watching television your body is usually stationary. To generate energy try the following movements, 10 times each.  Begin by raising your arms above your head and stretching each arm.  Next, work your legs, by bending and stretching.  With knuckles facing, move your elbows in a circular motion. Then stand and with feet 10 inches apart swing your arms from side to side.  Raise your shoulders to your ears. Move your head from side to side again the final 10 times. Finally do a super person stretch by clasping your hands behind your back and pulling down, 3 times.  While doing these simple exercises take belly breaths making sure you exhale as deeply as you inhale. And remember there are foods that encourage drowsiness and tired feelings shortly after giving the initial spurt of energy.  Cake, cookies, candy, and of course, caffeine are some major deceivers.

A Little is Very Good

A University of Georgia study randomly selected 36 healthy, young adults who said they had persistent feelings of fatigue.  They participated a in a six week period of moderate, medium and low intensity exercise 3 days a week. The study concluded that effects for symptoms of fatigue were moderated by exercise intensity, with low intensity exercise
producing the more favorable outcomes.  Conclusion, a little exercise is a good way to combat fatigue.

If simple exercise doesn’t restore energy, it may be time to have a conversation with your doctor who will help you pin point the cause of your excessive tiredness. Tiredness may be due to physiological, (hormones) emotional (stress), or lifestyle (quality of sleep) imbalances. Hopefully, moving your body may be all that is needed to shake that tired feeling.