Pets are present in about half of the households in France, slightly less in Germany (around 43%) and in the United Kingdom (44%). These rates can be explained by the demand of children or by a need for companionship.
Getting a pet depends largely on location, with people in the countryside more likely to get a pet than those living in the city. For example, in France, there are more pet owners among seniors living in the countryside: 48% of 70-79-year-olds who live in an urban unit of less than 5,000 inhabitants have at least one pet, and they are still 39% over 80 years old.
Another factor that seems to influence pet ownership is household composition. At all ages, fewer single people have pets than people who live in households with two or more people. Probably the prospect of not being alone in caring for a pet positively influences the decision to adopt one. The rise in the number of widows and widowers as age increases could partly explain the decrease in pet ownership rates.
This decrease is also linked to the fear of not being able to take care of an animal in the years to come. When their pet dies, many seniors therefore choose not to adopt another pet, in order to avoid the issue of caring for their pet after their own death or when they will no longer be autonomous enough to care for it.
A Pet Against Loneliness
If pets are still popular among seniors, it’s because they enjoy their company. They allow people who are sometimes isolated (because of their geographical location, health problems…) to have daily interactions and to feel useful. In the UK, 12% of people aged 65 and over even declare that their pets are their main source of companionship. So it’s a good way to fight isolation, but not only. Scientific research that emphasizes the health benefit of an everyday animal companion is growing, especially for those who own a dog. They could stimulate cardiac functions, promote physical activity, but also expose their owners to bacteria that enrich the intestinal flora. A Swedish study(1) states that these benefits are particularly true for people living alone.
There are therefore many physical and psychological benefits to contact with pets. Some long-term care facilities also accept that residents integrate the institution with their companion, while others have a « mascot » animal, which spends its days in the institution. We also see the development of animal therapy in long-term care facilities, which allows residents to escape a few moments from the medicalized environment, as in this long-term care facility in Dijon, Les Vergers, where a horse regularly visits the residents.
The 60-69-Year-Old Spends €345 per Year On Their Pets
Having a pet generates expenses, which can be significant. Households aged 60-69 are those who spend the most on their companions in France, with an average of €345 a year, with spending declining among older households. This decrease in the amounts spent can be seen in Germany, where the maximum expenses concern younger households aged 45-55 with €264 per year, with a drop to €168 for those aged 55-65.
From vet consultations to food, expenses cover a variety of costs. As regards feeding, manufacturers are offering an increasingly rich range of feeds tailored to the animal’s needs. We thus find products for dogs or cats called seniors which make it possible to fight against the degradation of the bones, to keep a balanced weight, increase the contribution of antioxidants, phosphorus… so many needs which reflect the own health problems of the ageing owners. Hill’s, manufacturer of dog and cat food, for example, has developed a special range for cats over 7 years of age, and explains to their owners the signs of ageing against which their product can fight: confusion, social withdrawal, changes in sleep patterns, accidents, fatigue, etc.