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9 Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors

9 Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors

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Dogs, cats, tropical fish, budgies and parrots, boa constrictors, gerbils and guinea pigs and ponies – well, you name it – pet varieties run a virtual A to Z of choices, and to each their own! Pets are personal and the relationships and the love affairs are real. So what happens when a person hasn’t got one in their life anymore? Well, depression, isolation, sadness, loneliness, the whole gamut of human feelings is what typically follows.

Most everyone, at some point in their lives, have had a pet or two (if not several) and we all know the heartbreak of losing them or being denied their incomparable company. We know from our own experiences the therapeutic value they bring to our lives.

For one thing, as a companion, pets provide many health benefits to their owners. Such as lower stress and anxiety levels. So it goes without saying that when a senior has a pet in their life it can help improve their well-being and give them a sense of purpose. Pets need to be fed, furry friends need to be groomed as well as exercised. Caged pets need their environments maintained and some daily housekeeping too: clean water, new wood shavings for the gerbil, clean newsprint on the budgie’s floor, and fish bowls and tanks need to be washed and maintained. All these actions give purpose to the life of any pet owner.

Depending on the type of pet, it can mean more exercise opportunities for the senior too. And, as a result, open up social interaction with others. Added together, pet ownership can go a long way in helping keep loneliness and depression at bay.

No Pets Allowed? No Problem.

Many seniors, after making the choice to live in a seniors facility, have had to give up their own pets in order to reside there. And this is a hard decision to make for many long-time pet owners.

The good news is that there is a trend now in many assisted living facilities to include pet therapy in their regular senior care programs. Once upon a time this would have been unheard of. Nowadays, retirement and care facilities are recognizing the many benefits of introducing animals into their environment because of the numerous health benefits they provide – especially to the elderly.

Apparently, just fifteen minutes spent connecting with an animal promotes hormonal changes in our brains – no matter our age. The results include a drop in people’s stress levels because the brain produces serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone), along with prolactin and oxytocin. At the same time, it has been noted that conditions such as depression and loneliness – with the help of a pet – are reduced as well.

The Top 9 Benefits

The more we look into this subject, the more we realize just how important exposure to pets can be for seniors and their health – physically, mentally and emotionally/spiritually. Just read the following list of benefits:

  1. Walking a dog provides much-needed physical exercise, ergo improved mobility and a healthier lifestyle.
  2. Petting or touching another living creature can result not only in lower blood pressure, but also a reduced heart rate and less stress. (Hugging humans also counts!)
  3. Pets provide emotional stability in stressful situations, helping to reduce anxiety and depression.
  4. Pets are often a person’s confidante. A senior may share their most private thoughts with their pet – thoughts they may not be comfortable sharing with family or friends.
  5. Caring for a pet helps increase a senior’s self-confidence and self-esteem, providing them a way to feel useful and responsible for something.
  6. For dementia patients and other seniors who may have difficulty using language, animals can be soothing.
  7. Feeding and grooming their pets can help increase seniors’ physical skills and help them remain active.
  8. Animals can help improve socialization – they listen without judgment and give unconditional love.
  9. Seniors with heart conditions who own pets tend to outlive those who don’t have pets.

Caveat

According to this article by Harvard Health, “Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may be responsible for reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.”

Let’s face it, being around animals makes most people feel better, healthier, and happier. And it works for me!

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Everything Retirement is passionate about creating stronger relationships with our members, clients and communities to improve their financial well-being and enrich people’s lives. We provide retirees and pre-retirees with the practical tools necessary to embark on a life of retirement with knowledge, insight and optimism.