The Benefits of Pet Ownership in Senior Living

10min read time
Research shows that pets provide numerous health and well-being benefits as we age. Exercise! Companionship! Cuddles! Pet-friendly retirement village, The Sterling, Kaiapoi, supports retirees to get the most out of pet ownership while still enjoying all the advantages of village living…


The connection between humans and animals is an ancient one – wolves and hunter-gatherer humans first got together for mutual benefit some 30,000 years ago. Since then, humans and dogs, along with domesticated cats, birds, rodents and more, have enjoyed symbiotic living arrangements, bringing comfort, companionship and service to each other. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Furry friends and healthy hearts

Pet ownership encourages physical activity, which helps manage weight, which in turn can lead to cardiovascular and muscular strength improvements, and improved outcomes related to stroke, cancer and diabetes, say researchers.

Whether as a by-product of exercise, or simply the calming effect of caring for a loved animal, the presence of a pet is likewise associated with the reduction of stress and blood pressure, and therefore may actually, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Mindfulness and the ‘pet effect’

These links between pet ownership and improvements in cognitive fitness, heart health and emotional wellbeing, have been dubbed the ‘pet effect’.

Experts hypothesise that because dogs, cats, fish and birds ‘live in the moment’, they exhibit a natural ‘mindfulness’ that can rub off on those who interact with them.

Walk a dog and notice its natural alertness to its environment, how attentive it is to ‘the here and now’, how it takes in all the sights, sounds and smells of the moment.

You can do the same. Whether you’re taking a dog for a walk, petting a cat, or doing something else entirely, you can bring your attention to the present moment.

Friends – with social benefits

As loved ones pass on and move away, and as our life circumstances change, ageing can bring with it moments of isolation and feelings of loneliness.

As we transition into retirement, pet ownership offers a way to stay active, to keep sparking up new friendships, and maintain our social engagement.

The Sterling, Kaiapoi is a pet friendly retirement village

The Sterling, Kaiapoi is a pet friendly retirement village, and welcomes residents with pets of all descriptions.

“We love pets at The Sterling, Kaiapoi,” says Suzi Cadigan, Village General Manager at The Sterling.

“The Sterling is an open, borderless retirement village community, so it makes sense that pets are a big part of that.”

“Often, pets are really important parts of people’s families, and they are often deeply loved, cherished companions to people, so we are very happy to make room for them at The Sterling.”

“There are so many benefits to having a pet – I see it on a daily basis. The big one is companionship. During the quieter moments, pets are a welcome presence in people’s lives, especially for people on their own. You can give them love and they will love you back, unconditionally.”

They also provide a sense of routine, purpose and connection, says Suzi.

“The Sterling retirement village – and the wider Silverstream and Kaiapoi area – is the perfect place if you own a dog. We’re really lucky with the beautiful walkways we’ve got all around.”


Owning a pet can be a wonderful experience full of excitement, love and bonding – but care should be taken too.

Before adopting an animal, some things you should consider:

  • If you live in a retirement village, are pets welcome at that village? (The Sterling, Kaiapoi is a pet-friendly village, although approval of the Village Manager is required.)
  • Pets such as dogs require regular exercise and can be an excellent motivator to stay active.
  • Younger animals in particular – such as puppies – require a lot of attention. Similarly, different breeds have different temperaments.
  • Animals, like people, have their own distinct personalities, so choose an animal that matches your disposition.
  • How large will the pet grow? Do you have sufficient space for the fully grown animal?
  • Ageing is an unpredictable business. What is the estimated lifespan of the animal?
  • What are the costs of ownership? What (and how much) does the animal eat?


In addition to the above, remember that it’s care and affection that pets need most.

Sterling success story: Marj and Louie

Marj has been at The Sterling since March 2022. Because she was on her own, Marj’s daughter-in-law encouraged her to adopt a pet as a companion.

Enter Louie, a Shih Tzu small in stature, but large in personality. Sourced from a Rolleston breeder, it was a case of love at first sight for Marj, and with approval from Village Manager Suzi, Louie was soon The Sterling’s newest animal resident.

Marj and Louie are regularly seen walking around the Sterling village or enjoying one of the many walks and pathways available in Silverstream.

Louie is a great motivator to keep active, says Marj.

“I used to think ‘I should really go out for a walk’, but I couldn’t be bothered, so I’d just sit on the couch and watch TV. Now, I have to get out and go for a walk and I feel so much better afterwards.”

“Louie’s companionship has been wonderful,” says Marj. “Having something to talk to in the quiet times has made a real difference to me.”

“I would definitely recommend pet ownership, especially to people who are on their own. Having a companion – a little dog, a cat, a bird – anything – makes a huge difference.”

The Sterling, Kaiapoi is a pet friendly retirement village and welcomes enquires regarding pets and retirement village living. Please contact us via the form below with your queries.