Ever petted a cat or dog and felt more relaxed and at peace? Keeping pets can offer many health advantages to their owners, such as lowering cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart attacks or strokes, and also combating depression.More and more often, animals are being put into service for therapeutic purposes. Animals trained for therapy can assist with good health as well as healing for older people, helping to treat depression, chronic illness, and many types of disabilities. Due to the numerous health advantages that therapy animals provide, many assisted living facilities are starting to include pet therapy in their regular senior care programs.
Animal-Assisted Therapy, as this type of therapy is known, comprises techniques that put to use animal interaction with elders in ways that assist with enhancing overall life. Just a quarter of an hour interacting with a therapy animal increases positive hormonal secretions inside the brains of seniors. Their stress levels decrease as serotonin (the “well-being” hormone) is produced, along with other positive hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin. Because they contribute so many incredible health benefits, therapy animals make excellent companions for seniors.
Advantages of pet therapy for elders
As a result of the many benefits interaction with animals provide to seniors, many senior living programs offer pet therapy. Seniors who have a pet, experience health deterioration far less quickly than seniors who keep to themselves and suffer from depression.
Senior adults tend to not get as much exercise as they did previously. In general, those with heart conditions who also own pets tend to outlive those who don’t. Among other reasons for this, walking a dog every day tends to provide regular physical exercise. This increases mobility and leads to an overall healthier lifestyle.
Being able to pet or touch an animal can also result in decreasing blood pressure, reduced stress, and lower average heart rate.
Often because of loneliness or isolation as a result of friends and family members unable to visit regularly, or the recent loss of a lifelong companion, elders may be prone to depression. Pets provide emotional stability during stressful situations and help to reduce depression and anxiety.
Caring for an animal helps increase self-confidence and self-esteem, providing a way for elders to feel valuable and able to carry responsibility for something besides themselves. For those with dementia, pets can be comforting if seniors have trouble using language well since coherent language isn’t required when interacting with a pet. Feeding and grooming can help increase seniors’ physical skills and help them become more active.
Finally, pets can help improve socialization—they listen without commentary and give sincere affection, especially when an elder may desire to share the thoughts they may not be comfortable telling their relatives or friends. Spending time with a therapy animal can help some elders reenter the world of social interaction, assisting them in being more content and more talkative.