Pets make great companions and they're good for your health

IF YOU want a friendly face to come home to, but you are not looking for a housemate, maybe an animal is the companion you need.

Owning and caring for a pet has been proven to reduce depression while boosting mobility, health and social connections.

Walking a dog is not only great exercise for the owner (as well as the dog), it's also a great way to start a conversation with other dog lovers they may meet on their walks.

And as most cat owners will tell you, having a pet on your lap is one way to make you feel appreciated - even if you know the cat is only sitting there to keep warm!

National Seniors chief executive Michael O'Neill welcomes programs that help improve older people's well-being.

But as the owner of any cat, dog, bird etc will tell you, pets can be expensive - particularly if you want to go on holiday or the animal needs veterinary care.

Another question seniors often ask is "what will happen to my pet if I need a higher level of care?".

For Queenslanders, help may now be at hand for would-be pet owners worried about who will look after their (usually) four legged friends if they are unable to do so themselves.

Animal Welfare League Queensland (AWLQ) has launched its Golden Hearts Pets Support Program, designed to take the worry out of pet ownership for people aged over 65 while allowing them the benefits of animal companionship.

So, if you want to own a pet, or you know someone who would like to own one but who is afraid the animal may become a burden, the Golden Hearts program may give them the comfort and reassurance they need.

"Seniors would find it very reassuring if someone could look after their pet in an emergency, such as an unplanned hospital visit," Mr O'Neill said.

"And any help with vet bills would be more than welcome as sometimes pets' treatment can cost as much, if not more, than that of their owners.

"This is why programs such as Golden Hearts are such a great idea and a boon to people in their later years, particularly those who live alone or who have no family members close by."

For information about the AWLQ pet program, visit

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