As elder law attorneys, we keep a finger on the pulse of all matters that impact senior citizens and their families. Some of the issues are financial in nature, and there are psychological and emotional challenges that can enter the picture. Loneliness is one of them.
Negative Impact Of Living Alone
The National Institute on Aging is a good source of information about the subject. Their research has indicated that about 28 percent of elders are living by themselves. This is around 14 million people, and the older population is growing as the baby boomers attain senior citizen status.
All of these people are not suffering from loneliness, because there are those that interact frequently with family members, friends, neighbors, and others. However, a significant number of these folks do in fact experience a sense of social isolation and loneliness.
Researchers have found that this can actually have a negative physical and mental impact. It can cause high blood pressure, and it can exacerbate heart disease symptoms. Loneliness can actually weaken the immune system as well.
From a mental perspective, this feeling can trigger anxiety and depression, and Alzheimer’s disease is fueled by loneliness. When you put it all together, you can see that the multifaceted negatives are considerable.
Benefits of Pet Ownership
There is no substitute for human companionship, but a dog or a cat is the next best thing. When a senior brings a pet into their home, they immediately feel a renewed sense of purpose. The pet is a dependent of sorts that is relying on its owner for everything, and providing the care can be very rewarding.
If the pet is a dog, it should go out for walks. This gives the owner a reason to get outside and get some exercise and fresh air, and this can lead to social interaction. Acquaintances can be made at the dog park or the local park, so there can be an uplifting snowball effect.
One of the reasons why loneliness can cause the mental and physical challenges that we have touched upon is because a senior that is experiencing loneliness will dwell on the negatives. When a pet is always bringing a smile to your face, everything changes, and the burden is lifted.
The benefits of pets ownership are profound, but what about longevity concerns? If you bring a pet into your home late in your life, what happens if you predecease the animal?
This is a good question, and you can answer it yourself if you establish a pet trust. The way that it works is you fund the trust, and you name a trustee to administer it after you are gone. You can name someone that you know that is willing to assume the task, or it could be a professional fiduciary.
We should point out the fact that the trustee does not necessarily have to be the individual that will actually care for the pet.
In the trust declaration, you record instructions regarding the way that you want the pet to be cared for after you are gone. You can be very specific, and the trustee would have a fiduciary obligation to follow your instructions.
You could name a successor beneficiary in the trust document that would receive any remainder that may be left in the trust after the death of the pet. This is a turnkey solution that can make pet ownership a real possibility for many seniors that are experiencing loneliness.
Access Our Estate Planning Worksheet
This blog is a great source of information, and there are many other resources that you can tap into on this website. One of them is our estate planning worksheet. It has been carefully prepared to provide you with some added insight into this very important process.
You can visit our worksheet access page to get your copy right now.
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