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Why Pet Therapy Is Beneficial For Seniors

February 9, 2021 | Blog

Why Pet Therapy Is Beneficial For Seniors

It is no secret that there are many benefits to interacting with pets like: dogs, cats, birds and robotic simulating animals. Our furry friends are a part of the family and have therapeutic attributes that can improve the health and quality of life for you or your loved ones. Pet therapy is the interaction between a person and a trained animal. We all experience the calm sensation we get when petting man’s best friend. Bonding with a friendly pet can help with a variety of physical and mental issues. Studies indicate that those who spend regular time with pets often have lower blood pressure and triglyceride counts. Pet therapy has been utilized in places like senior facilities to promote healthy living, healing, mental health, stability and more. Pet therapy has been scientifically proven to be extremely effective. Studies have shown being around pets releases endorphins and provides a calming effect that people of all ages long for. Here are some additional reasons why pet therapy is beneficial for seniors.   

Exercise Partner  

Exercising not only assists seniors who are recovering from an injury or illness, but can also prevent several chronic diseases from arising. Physical activity can improve appetite, sleep and mood, helps maintain weight, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Those who own dogs usually have to make time each day to walk them, which not only encourages physical activity but also provides the benefits of exercising. The physical benefits also include diminishing overall physical pain, releases hormones such as Phenylethylamine, which makes you more relaxed, and slows down things like breathing if you experience anxiety. In a NCBI study, “Dog owners in Canada were more likely to visit multiuse or walk-through parks than individuals who did not possess dogs.” Comparatively, cats tend to enjoy playtime throughout the day, which helps their elderly owner to stay engaged and active. 

Increases Social Interaction 

Pet Therapy for individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia have shown positive results, especially when dogs are present. A study conducted at the Veterans Hospital presented, “Residents had more verbal interactions with each other when a dog was present in the room than when there was no dog present.” Additionally for people with dementia pet therapy can be soothing for those that have trouble speaking. Pets can also be a great way to start up conversations and can bridge the gap between people of all ages. According to Harvard Health PublishingPets may also indirectly improve health by fostering social connections, which are good for long-term health. An analysis of 148 studies on the topic found that people who have solid social networks are 50% more likely to live longer than those with limited social networks. In today’s go-it-alone world, many people have trouble making connections.”

Emotional and Mental Health Benefits 

Mental health is a really important part of life that we must take care of. Pet therapy is one of many ways to maintain mental health. When you are feeling things like excessive sadness, excessive worrying or fear, mood swings, avoiding social interaction, changes of appetite and more pet therapy can be something to try. Animal assisted therapy lowers anxiety, provides comfort, reduces the feeling of being lonely, reduces boredom, increases mental stimulation, it can be an escape and a sense of happiness and pet therapy can provide emotional stability as well during stressful times. According to research from the American Heart Association’s Scientific SessionsResearchers discovered that a 12-minute visit with man’s best friend helped heart and lung function by lowering pressures, diminishing release of harmful hormones and decreasing anxiety among hospitalized heart failure patients. Benefits exceeded those that resulted from a visit with a human volunteer or from being left alone.” These reasons and more are a huge benefit to having a more positive mindset and better mental health. 

Provides A Sense Of Purpose 

It is common for the elderly population to have symptoms of depression and isolate themselves from family and social outings. Although it is common, depression is not normal nor is it an okay state to be in. Studies have shown that pet therapy has the ability to reduce symptoms of depressions and loneliness. These are feelings that arise when in a social setting like a nursing home so any furry friend can help subside those hard feelings a person might not want to face.  Pet’s provide a sense of purpose because they depend on their owners for food, exercise and companionship. Taking care of a pet can be a big responsibility and require a daily regimen which can provide structure to the owners day. According to NCBI, “responsibility is widely considered important in mental health recovery.” Carrying the responsibility of caring for someone other than yourself helps keep a strict pattern or schedule for your daily life which then benefits you in the long run. Just a few minutes with a pet can completely alter your day and mood in a positive way. Pet therapy has assisted in helping people get out of hospitals and even contributed to helping people with cancer get through chemo. Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center offers pet therapy at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. These animals are outstanding emotional support and bring joy to these patients. This kind of therapy has an incredible amount of benefits and positive results and is definitely worth a try. 

At Spring Hills Assisted Living, our care providers have witnessed just how much having a pet enhances the lives and joy of those in our care. Pet therapy allows people to interact, socialize and engage routinely. Our goal is to enhance our seniors lives by nurturing the mind, body and spirit through our programs, therapies and other Signature Touch Programs.

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