Science and Tech


Owning a pet can help slow dementia progress among older adults

A new study found that individuals over the age of 50 living alone could get mental benefits from keeping a pet.
Woman kissing her dog.
Posted at 6:46 PM, Dec 27, 2023

Ending the year with some paw-sitive news: A new study found that having pets can help slow down dementia progression among those over the age of 50 who live alone.

Researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, found that owning a pet is not only linked to a slower onset of dementia but may also enhance memory, thinking skills, and have a positive impact on the overall cognitive health of adults living alone.

“Loneliness is a potential mediator in the association of living alone with dementia among older adults. Contrary to living alone, pet ownership (e.g., raising dogs and cats) is related to reduced loneliness, an important risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline,” the study’s author, professor Ciyong Lu, saidin the study published in JAMA Network Open.

Among the 7,945 participants, averaging 66 years of age, approximately 35% owned pets, and 26% lived alone. Individuals living alone exhibited a quicker decline in composite verbal cognition, verbal memory, and verbal fluency. In contrast, pet owners experienced a slower rate of decline in these aspects.

"Pet ownership completely offset the associations of living alone with declining rates in verbal memory, verbal fluency, and composite verbal cognition. Our findings provide innovative insights for developing public health policies to slow cognitive decline in older adults living alone," Lu said.

However, Lu says that clinical trials will be needed to fully validate the study's results.

According to the World Health Organization, there are over 55 million people who have dementia worldwide, and it's the seventh leading cause of death. 

Robots help provide companionship, health benefits to aging Americans
Melvin Antilla talking to his robot ElliQ.

Robots help provide companionship, health benefits to aging Americans

As aging brings more health challenges and the need for assistance, new robots are stepping in to provide companionship and support.