Senior loneliness: Woman and dog prove animals could be the cure

STONINGTON, Maine (WABI) - That was Tommy letting his senior owner know that her phone was ringing.

According to Home Instead Senior Care, senior isolation is becoming an increasingly common problem in America.

It's why spending time with pets can be beneficial to older adults.

"More people age better with having an animal in the house. It keeps them a little younger and more involved with things."

Sue Bergen lives alone, except for Tommy, of course.

The two seniors keep each other busy day in and day out.

"He's old, and so am I, so we are going through stages in life together. I'm a nurse, or I was a nurse, trained as a nurse, and it's keeping me feeling like I'm doing something for somebody else and helping him with his health, and he helps me with mine."

She says Tommy keeps her active and gets her out to see people.

"He keeps me active. He gives me a reason to get up in the morning, and he gives me chores I have to do."

"Some of the benefits of having a pet like Tommy is stress relief, a sense of purpose, and exercise."

"Instead of just sitting there by themselves, they've got a family. I think it doesn't matter whether you are 15, 35, or 85, people like to be able to give and nurture."

Pets can also provide companionship for older adults that prefer to age in place.

"Most people would prefer to be there than in an assisted living or nursing home."

Sue says she encourages other seniors to think about owning a pet as Tommy has changed her life.

"How important is a child to a mother? That's kind of what he is to me now."