Who would ever have thought that a four-legged bundle of furry joy or a beautiful dolphin could make you feel better? Pet assisted therapy is a broad technique that involves interaction between animals and patients to make the patient feel better. As for the benefits of pet therapy for seniors, pets provide a multitude of benefits to their companions. Not only does it feel great to be around animals, but it can make you feel healthier, too.
Even just having a pet at home has been found to be significantly beneficial. Dog ownership has shown to be associated with less risk of heart attacks and an increased survival just 12 months after a heart attack. Seniors who own pets tend to walk farther, too, when walking their dog, which contributes to fewer trips to the doctor.
To illustrate better the benefits of Pet Therapy for the elderly please take a look to this amazing infographic done by www.caringpeopleinc.com.
But, it’s not just about having a furry companion. Talking to a pet instead of a person has also been associated with a lower heart rate. Even in senior’s nursing homes, pet assisted therapy has been associated with a reduced need for medication, improved vital signs, and improved physical functioning – even for patients who have dementia. Other benefits of pet therapy include:
- Reduction in loneliness
- Reduced depression
- Reduction in agitated behaviors
- An increase in engagement
- Better nutritional intake
- More social interactions
- Better well-being
Why Are the Benefits of Pet Therapy So Healthy?
There is a line of aging research on psychology today website that has shown how pet assisted therapy can generate hormones that affect our moods. According to research conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, hormonal changes that occur naturally when we interact with dogs can help us to cope with stress-related disorders and depression. Early results have shown that just a few minutes spent stroking a pet promotes a release of “feel good” hormones in humans, including oxytocin, prolactin, and serotonin. What’s more, cortisol – the primary stress hormone – is reduced.
The Psychological, Emotional, and Physical Benefits of Pet Therapy
There truly are a multitude of benefits of pet therapy, such as:
- Grooming and feeding a pet can increase a senior’s physical skills, encouraging them to become more active.
- Seniors who suffer from heart conditions and own pets are known to outlive those who don’t have pets.
- Pets provide emotional stability during times of stress, therefore reducing depression and anxiety.
- Walking a dog provides crucial exercise which can improve mobility and lead to a healthier lifestyle.
- Animals are soothing to seniors who have language difficulties, such as dementia patients.
- Having a furry friend to cuddle can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and normalize a senior’s heart rate.
- Animals can help seniors with their socialization skills. They listen without judging and the provide unbiased affection.
- Looking after a pet can increase a senior’s self-esteem and self-confidence, which helps them to feel responsible for something and therefore useful.
Overall, having a pet can help improve a senior’s well-being and can give new meaning to their life. Because of the myriad of health benefits that pet assisted therapy provides, more and more assisted living facilities are starting to incorporate pet therapy in their senior care programs.
There Is a Hidden Benefit to Owning a Pet
If you already have a pet, you can share them with your elderly loved one. Not only is this beneficial to your relative, but it can help you to share in the delight of playing with and caring for a pet.
If you are an older adult and would like to volunteer, you could take your pet along to clinics, hospices, and nursing homes to provide pet therapy. However, you will need to be certified and your pet will need to undergo training for animal assisted therapy.
Alternatively, if your elderly relative lives alone and would like the company, consider getting him or her a lovely pet for companionship. There is no doubt that they will welcome the company, and the feeling of having something to take care of which in turn helps to ease their stress and keep them busy. After all, the benefits of pet therapy are not to be taken lightly!