LIVING WITH PETS AND LONELINESS IN OLD AGE: A STUDY ON ATITUDES OF ELDERLY PEOPLE

Monteiro, A. M. F.
 
Introduction
 
Aging, as a universal phenomenon, results of low indices of infant mortality, improvements in the attendance of health and life style that elderly people live in the course of their lifes.  A trustworthy measure of oldness does not exist, even so the majority of the gerontologists take the age of 60 or 65 years as their beginning - in Brazil, the Statute of the Aged one, defines aged as a person with 60 years or more.  It is approximately in this age that it becomes apparent the decline in many physical and psychological processes.  Today, 70% of the occidental population will live more than 65 years while in 1900 only about 25% of the population would have this hope of life.

The psychological processes of aging have, in the majority of the times, loneliness as consequences;  either for the death of the spouse, marriage of the children, retirement, decline in the social life..., at last, the utility feeling that in elapsing of life was preponderant leaves to be present in some phase of the aging.  With base in this "loneliness", we objectify this work to identify if some influence of an animal of esteem in a possible autonomy related to the solitude in the aged exists.  To have an animal in compromises us to take care of them different from us.  It means to be responsible for the desires and necessities of others.  Such relationship between the human beings and the animals only grows with a generous spirit.  However the value of a relationship with an animal, as everything in life, is directly proportional to the energy and the care that we invest.  If we want to learn and to show mutual respect, the pets can teach us concerning life.  The observation of the cycle of life of a pet could help us to understand our phases of life.  The experience of the death of pet could help us to understand our self mortality.  The sadness caused by absence of a pet is intense to human, and the feeling of loss must consist of our menu of the events of life.

In sight of the theoretical formulation above, the following problem was formulated:  The ownership of a pet would contribute to the reduction of the loneliness in the elderly people?  In consequence to the formulated problem, we arrived in the following hypothesis:  It would have a significant difference between the population that possess it and the one that does not possess pet, in relation to the idea of the contribution of the pet for the reduction of the loneliness of the elderly.

 

 

METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY

 

Definitely the hypothesis of this study, was to demarcate the election and the localization of the information sources, and, thus, was opted to a bibliographical study work.  Considering that the proposal of this study was to work, mainly, with the universe of meanings, reasons, aspirations, beliefs, values and attitudes, a research of qualitative nature was chosen.  Being defined the type of research; it was transferred to the choice of the Technique of Data Collection.  Individual interviews were opted, and were characterized as half-structured, a time that possessed open and close questions.  In relation to the sample of this study, the typology of this Not-probabilistic is classified necessarily as Intentional or Natural Election.

95 elderly people, both sexes, with ages between 60 and 92 years old had been interviewed,  in beaches of the South Zone of the city of Rio De Janeiro and they did not present any physical deficiency, being able to be or not in the company of a pet.  A questionnaire of ten questions of which eight being objectives answers were closed and two questions with open and simple answers, where the great majority of the interviewed ones answered with only one word.  The interviewers had approached the aged in beaches of the south zone and the questions daily pre-defined in the questionnaire were made to them.  The majority of the aged ones showed great receptivity in participating in the research, becoming, thus, the work most practical.  After the collection of the data, it was tabulated and there were made statistics, graphics analysis and its interpretation.  For results the analysis of the results, we use amongst the some definitions on the aged beings, the variant presented for BURNSIDE, EBERSOLE and MONEA (1979), that they had considered categories between:  "old young" (60 - 69), "old of half age (70 - 79)," old - old "(80 - 89) and" old very old "(+ of 90).  Where, in the truth, they are synonymous for "sexagenarians", "septuagenarians", "octogenarians" and "nonagenarians".

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESULTS

 

Sex and age

 

The Graphic 1 in the sample percentage of the totality of the interviewed ones.  The green color bar shows the percentage of all the interviewed ones of each category.  The yellow color bar shows the categorical percentage of the masculine sex and the bar of red color shows the categorical percentage of the feminine sex.
 
Problem

In accordance with the belief of the interviewed ones, graphic 2 samples that 87% believe that the ownership of an esteem animal contributes to the reduction of loneliness.

 

 

 

Hypothesis

Graphic 3 sample that has a significant difference between the submitted levels of the independent 0 variable to the test, therefore the acceptable margin of error to establish an equality was of only 0,05.

 

 

The Not-probabilistic sample is not representative of the universe, and, therefore, the generalization of their result in the research is impossible for all the population.  The results have validity for a specific group, in this case, the group of the special aged ones that we had interviewed. 

 

 

Conclusion

We conclude that a great part of the interviewed ones believes that the ownership of a pet help to the combat loneliness in the third age.  Many of the interviewed ones that possess an esteem animal had earned or acquired ability to fight loneliness, therefore many are widowers, separated, they do not have relatives and they live alone.  The quality of life of the aged ones that possess a pet moved sufficiently after acquiring them, therefore many had justified that they had started to have an objective in life, a company, had started to practice more exercises, they had started to take more care of their hygiene - therefore they had started also to take care of the hygiene of their animal, and, however, the backward side is that the expenditures had increased, but this aspect, according to the aged, is highly compensative.

 

Analysis and quarrel of the results

The data show that 90% of the interviewed ones like esteem animals and that 69% of the interviewed possess a pet.  87% of the interviewed ones believe that the presence of a pet brightens up their loneliness and some had justified that they felt less loneliness in the presence of a pet than in the presence of people.  Then the feeling of the interviewed ones for their pet, the majority, 52%, admit feeling of love for their animals.  Other feelings, as affection, gratitude, joy and fullness, had been cited, totalizing 38% and 10% of the interviewed ones affirm that their animals are like sons, occupy the space of their sons who are already dead or who they never had.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

BECKER, M., - The Healing Power of Pets – First Edition, Hyperion, New York, 2002.

 

CARIOU, M., - Personnalité et vieillissement – Introduction à la Psycho-Gérontologie – DELACHAUX et NIESTLÉ, Paris, 1995.

 

DAVIS, D., - THERAPY DOGS – 2nd edition, Dogwise Publishing, Wenatchee, 2002.

 

HAMILTON, I. S., - A Psicologia do envelhecimento – uma introdução. – 3ª edição, Artmed editora, Porto Alegre, 2002.

 

VUILLEMENOT, J. L., - La personne âgée et son animal – Editions Erès, Paris, 1997.