Caring for seniors is often difficult, especially when they seem disinterested in what’s going on around them. Keeping seniors actively interested in life is the key to actually keeping them alive. One way to do that is by providing them with interesting pets to care for and enjoy.
Here, Fishy, Fishy
There’s something soothing about water. It calms our nerves, relieves stress, and promotes relaxation. An aquarium full of brightly-colored fish enjoying their watery world is extra soothing. Maybe that’s why they’ve been a mainstay of medical offices and hospital waiting rooms for so long!
They’re even highly recommended for long-term care facilities because they act as a “social lubricant” that can encourage conversation and interaction with others. Alzheimer’s patients tend to eat more and exhibit fewer disruptive behaviors if they can watch fish during mealtimes.
A senior who isn’t up to taking care of a more demanding pet like a cat or dog can still enjoy pet fish. Whether it’s a single betta in a bowl or a freshwater aquarium full of fish, a senior loved one of any age can enjoy a slightly ‘fishy’ new friend.
A Betta in a Bowl…
Male bettas are spectacularly colorful and personable fish. They quickly learn to recognize the person who takes care of them and can even learn some ‘fishy tricks‘! They don’t need a large aquarium since they live a solitary lifestyle. A betta will probably survive in a simple fishbowl, but a small tank is better for him and easier on his caretaker.
…Or an Aquarium Full of Fish?
More fish and of a greater variety yields even more benefits than a single betta. Scientists conducted an experiment while a 150,000 gallon renovated exhibit at the U.K.’s National Marine Aquarium was slowly being restocked with fish. Visitors relaxed while watching the shimmering light dance across the empty exhibit. Their level of relaxation increased while their heart rate and blood pressure dropped as more and different fish were gradually added.
The scientists concluded that a wide variety of colorful fish provided the most pronounced health benefits. A well-stocked aquarium in a senior’s home may provide similar benefits. They will certainly enjoy endless hours of relaxation while watching the flashing darts of shimmering color.
Size and Maintenance
When choosing an aquarium, the general rule of thumb is 1 gallon per 1″ of adult fish. Ten gallons is the minimum size that can hold a good variety of fish. A 20 or 30-gallon aquarium will hold substantially more (and larger) fish. Just remember that water weighs approximately 8lb per gallon. That, plus the weight of the tank itself, means that a filled aquarium needs sturdy support.
A larger aquarium is generally lower maintenance than a smaller one. Whether you choose a betta bowl or aquarium for your senior, you’ll want to locate it away from natural light. Too much light will promote algae growth on all the tank surfaces. Changing the water (at least 10-30% of it) each week will prevent the build-up of nitrates and other toxins.
Seniors May Need Help with Their Fish
- The initial purchase and set-up costs may strain their resources.
- There are smaller, ongoing expenses like food, water conditioner, and filter replacements.
- The fish will need regular meals.
- Someone will need to make weekly water changes.
- Every 1 to 2 months, the bowl or aquarium will need a thorough cleaning.
How You Can Help
Financial assistance can make it possible for a senior to keep, and care for, pet fish. Having supplies delivered can save your senior trips to the store. Calling to inquire about their fish can act as a gentle reminder to feed them. Water changes and tank cleanings are fantastic opportunities to show how much you care. So is just sitting with them as you enjoy their fish together.