Many believe that owning pets can be beneficial for older adults. But is it true that a dog or a cat can make life better for older family members, or is this simply a comfortable myth?
Two researchers with Florida State University's Institute for Successful Longevity intend to find out with the support of a $50,000 grant from the Gerontological Society of America and the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, the fundamental science center for Mars Petcare.
FSU researchers Dawn Carr and Natalie Sachs-Ericsson will tap into data on human-animal interaction collected as part of the Health and Retirement Survey, a long-term study of more than 20,000 individuals 50 years old or older.
"The Health and Retirement Survey is an important source of data for understanding aging processes in the United States," said Carr, assistant professor of sociology. "In 2012, a subset of the study participants were asked about their pets. These questions on human-animal interaction have drawn little attention."
The research team's goal is to use these data to determine if, how and under what circumstances companion animals benefit older people.