What are the Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors

Updated on October 22, 2020

Pets are capable of bringing joy into our lives and for the elderly, this effect can be life-changing. Pets keep us company, provide us with fun interactions, and can even boost our serotonin levels to help make us feel happier and healthier. A quick chat with a pet owner is all you need to discover how their fuzzy furballs make their lives better. Some people see their pets as family members and motivate them to go out and about.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology conducted research and documented the science behind the benefits of pet interaction in the elderly. According to the papers, elders who interacted with pets showed greater self-esteem, increased physical activity, and became more outgoing and conscientious. Pets are such positive influences that owning a pet slashed health expenditure in Australia by $3.86 billion in just one year.

There are plenty of advantages to owning a pet including reduced stress levels, lowered blood pressure, positive interactions, and more. For seniors who live in residential care, such as those at Homestyle Aged Care, pet ownership is much more than the physical and psychological benefits – it’s all about the companionship the animals can provide. In nursing homes, this relationship between pet and human is called pet therapy. Pet therapy is a form of assisted care that incorporates animals such as cats, dogs, and other pets into a treatment plan with the goal of stimulating the mind and body of the elderly residents.

Here are the benefits associated with therapy that seniors can take advantage of.

The physical benefits of pet therapy

Pet ownership provides a whole host of physical benefits, especially for the elderly. According to the RSPCA, the physical benefits of pet therapy are:

  • Promotes better cardiovascular health (helps lower cholesterol, reduces triglycerides in men, and lowers blood pressure as well)
  • Boosts physical activity. Dogs in particular, are active animals and can make their pet owner enjoy the outdoors more. Pets can also be incorporated in a low-impact exercise to make the workouts more enjoyable.
  • Makes pet owners more sociable. Humans are social creatures and having pets around increases your social activity.
  • Strengthens the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies in certain individuals.
  • Fewer visits to the doctor thanks to the cardiovascular benefits of pet ownership.

Baker Medical Research Institution conducted a research wherein 5,741 participated in a three-year study. Several factors were taken into account like their current health status and weight. Over the course of a three-year period, pet owners were found to be healthier overall and their weight was kept in check compared to non-pet owners.

The mental benefits of pet therapy

Aside from the physical benefits of pet therapy, there are mental benefits as well. Pets can provide a calm and soothing effect for the elderly who suffer from dementia and can even help them become better at speaking and articulating themselves. Owning a pet provides an opportunity for non-verbal communication which is essential for keeping anxiety and loneliness at bay.

Other mental benefits of pet therapy are:

  • Reduced stress levels. Pets are often used to help individuals cope with high-stress levels. Nursing home residents, veterans, and anxious children are a few groups that have been reported to have lowered stress levels when interacting with a pet.
  • Helps combat loneliness. Living in a nursing home can make residents feel lonely Since pets mirror some of the qualities we look for in a relationship like love, loyalty, and companionship, they can provide us with a healthy dose of connection that we’re looking for.
  • Owning a pet can significantly reduce the feelings of anxiety and sadness because they’re a bundle of joy themselves.
  • Pets can play an important role in helping someone recover from a loss. Elderly people who’ve lost their spouse were much better at coping with their emotions thanks to their pets providing a powerful buffing effect against grief.
  • Animal-assisted care helps uplift the general mood of a nursing home’s environment. Pets are a ball of energy and it can rub off positively on the residents who frequently engage with them.

The importance of pet therapy

Pet therapy not only reinforces our existing relationship with animals but helps boost the success rate of individuals who are recovering from a treatment program. Pet therapy can be used in many different ways to speed up rehabilitation and make it more effective. This method of treatment can help both children and adults to manage their physical and mental issues more effectively.

While not everyone is suited to undergo pet therapy, those who are qualified will benefit greatly from the presence of such adorable creatures. Elderly people and nursing home residents can experience the joy and pleasure of living with pets. They serve as a friendly reminder that we, as humans, thrive on being socially active and they can provide the kind of interaction that we value in our lives.

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