OWNING a pet, of any type, is important for our wellbeing and has a positive ripple effect within our neighbourhood, researchers from the University of Western Australia have found.
Pets are found to be a catalyst for helping people to get to know other people which can lead to social ties that often go far beyond a wave and a chat to forming meaningful relationships as a result of meeting through their pets.
Lead researcher Dr Lisa Wood said the implications for older members of the community are -
- The no pets allowed policy in high-density living retirement villages needs to revisited as for many older people, their pets both are important companions and an effective tool for building relationships with other older people.
- As people age, their family move away or the friends die, the opportunity to build and strengthen social relationships is important.
- People will form relationships with other pet owners who they may then call on for support and for practical help.
- Dog owners, in particular, tend to be more active which has positive mental and physical health implications.
- Dog owners out walking, tend to create a higher sense community safety.
Dr Wood said the role of pet ownership in bringing communities together and increasing perceptions of trust has important implications for town planners, local government and housing bodies.
Some of needs of the older community to make it a liveable neighbourhood and facilitate valuable social networks are -
- A park or green space within a 400 metres of their home. "The walkability of communities and the presence of parks and open spaces is also an important consideration for ensuring towns and cities are pet friendly," Dr Wood said.
- Footpaths that can be walked safely and easily to make the green area accessible.
- Suitable park amenities such as benches which can be used as social spaces.
Dr Wood also said there are implications out of this research for house design to make it more pet friendly.
"Particularly with affordable housing clusters, there are things you do want there, not just parks, but other amenities that are walkable," she said.
"We want to be able to create really liveable neighbourhoods particularly if pet owners don't have their own backyard or don't have access to green area around the house, then how do we provide that within the broader neighbourhood."