Research by the University of Lincoln[i] found that a large majority (91 per cent) of people say that having a dog around them is a calming influence and 94 per cent believe a pet’s presence can improve their own confidence. Under a third (31 per cent) even said spending time with a pet had helped them whilst suffering from a mental illness.
Another study[ii] by the University of Toronto found that people that owned a dog were 24 per cent less at-risk of death by any cause, a 65 percent lower risk of dying after a heart attack and 31 percent less probability of dying of any cardiovascular cause.
One of the UK’s leading homesitting companies, Homesitters Ltd, is on a recruitment drive for home and pet sitters in the UK. Alan Irvine, Managing Director of Homesitters Ltd says homesitting, which involves looking after people’s homes and pets when they go away, is a good way for older people to get some of the health benefits of spending time with dogs.
Mr Irvine explains, “Many people decide they don’t want the responsibility of owning a dog when they get older, which is why caring for dogs is one of the top reasons that our homesitters chose the role. Many say that it’s the next best thing to actually owning a dog.
“While on assignment homesitters will be doing daily walks with the dog(s), which is why dog owners are usually physically fitter than non-dog owners. They also enjoy the companionship and meeting other people out on walks which is good for mental wellbeing.
“Most of our homesitters are retired people in their 50s, 60s and 70s and as well as looking after pets, they enjoy travelling around the UK and visiting new places. The role appeals as it’s flexible and people can fit assignments around other commitments.
“They also receive a small remuneration to boost their pension income. We are currently on a recruitment drive and are looking for reliable people who are passionate about caring for animals to join our expanding network of home and pet sitters throughout the UK.”
One couple who have been homesitting for four years since taking early retirement, are Janet and Steve Groom from near Tunbridge Wells, who are in their fifties. The Grooms enjoy the home and pet sitting lifestyle, they stay in gorgeous properties and looking after animals has become a real highlight for them.
Janet says, “We love being homesitters and the best thing about it for us is the animals, they are so loving and we have lots of fun with them. It would be too restricting to have a dog of our own but through home and pet sitting we get to have ‘part time’ pets with all of the love and none of the long term responsibility, which suits us perfectly.”
The couple mainly look after dogs and cats but have also looked after a goat, sheep and chickens. The couple have a regular assignment in Barnes which they love. Living in the countryside themselves they enjoy being in a more urban environment. They love taking the dogs for walks in Richmond Park and there is a heated outdoor swimming pool they can use.
Janet comments, “We often have to pinch ourselves to believe some of the homes we stay in. How else would you get to experience living in such gorgeous houses with swimming pools and beautiful gardens? Home and pet sitting is an amazing experience and we get so much out of it.
“It’s exciting every time we go to a new home and get to look after new animals and explore new areas. The clients are so welcoming and we find that they want us to enjoy their home and make use of all the facilities; it’s almost as if we’re on holiday.”
All homesitters are employed directly by the company and have complete freedom to decide how many assignments they undertake each year. While on assignment, homesitters are fully insured and have 24/7 back up support They also receive a daily food allowance and travel expenses (both tax-free), and earn a modest remuneration. Homesitting also provides an opportunity for people to make considerable savings on household bills when away.
For more information about how to become a homesitter visit www.homesitters.co.uk