It’s World Mental Health Day on 10th October, which this year aims to make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority amid concerns around rising mental health issues.
New research from Age UK[i] revealed the impact the pandemic has had on older people’s mental health and confidence, with many experiencing anxiety, memory loss, low mood and depression.
According to Ben Irvine, Director of Operations at Homesitters Ltd says older people can boost their mental wellbeing and happiness by becoming home and pet sitters – a role ideal for retirees that enables them to interact with pets which is renowned to improve mental health.
A YouGov survey in May with UK pet owners found that 90% of dog owners felt mentally healthier thanks to their pet[ii]. Figures were only slightly lower for cat and rabbit owners, at 85% and 81% respectively, showing the positive impact pets can have on mental health.
Ben said: “Home and pet sitting is great way for people to spend time with pets, without the commitment of owning one. Often people choose not to have a pet when they retire so they can have more flexibility over what they do, so this is the next best thing.
“By being a homesitter people can enjoy many of the great aspects of pet ownership such as walking dogs, grooming cats and spending time stroking and being in the company of pets, which can improve mental wellbeing. Also, the role enables people to meet new people and stay in new places this is great for mental health too.”
Sue and Roy Strangeway from Lincolnshire have been homesitting since they retired. They spent their working lives living in Kent but when moved to the East Midlands when they retired. They bought a retirement property where they are not allowed pets but becoming a homesitters has been the next best thing as can spend plenty of time with animals, plus they can explore new areas.
Sue says, “We get all the joy of pets without any of the long-term responsibility. I did wonder whether the dogs might pine for their owners when they leave, but once they realise that we know where their food is they’re happy.
“We mainly look after dogs and cats – but we love learning new things and how to look after different animals so we are open to looking after all creatures, great and small. On a recent assignment we looked after 17 parrots and a dog.
“Most of the parrots were in aviaries but there was one in the house, he was beautiful, but every time we went into the room he’d bombard us with questions, ‘where are you going?’ and ‘what are you doing?’ but he didn’t take the slightest bit of notice of our answers.”
The couple put their earnings from home and pet sitting towards holidays, although Sue says the homes are often so luxurious that if they were hotels the cost of a night’s stay would be astronomical.
One such property had beautiful gardens where they could take the dogs for a walk every day without even leaving the property – the grounds were so large it took the gardener over two days on a ride-on mower to cut the grass.
Sue’s advice for people considering home and pet sitting is to try it, she says, “I think most people would enjoy it, it’s great to get out and about and meet new people. If you’re thinking about it, give it a whirl.”
Homesitters Ltd are different to many other pet sitting agencies in that all their homesitters are employed by them, are fully vetted and insured, plus they provide 24/7 back up support for homesitters on assignment. Homesitters also meet clients and their pets beforehand to be briefed on the home and the pets’ routine to ensure the assignment goes smoothly.
For more information on Homesitters Ltd and to apply to become a homesitter visit: www.homesitters.co.uk