For many people, some of the most prized childhood memories involve a family pet, and there’s no reason those joyful memories should stop as we age.
Pet therapy offers several benefits for seniors who are struggling with life changes, illness, or loneliness.
Here’s how a furry friend can improve the well-being of you or your loved one.
What is Pet Therapy?
First, it’s important to understand that pet therapy isn’t the same as simply having a pet.
For many seniors, caring for an animal can be a big responsibility. While pet ownership can be one form of pet therapy, it might be difficult to independently keep a pet for those who are living with some physical or cognitive limitations.
Visitation and animal-assisted therapy are two other forms of pet therapy might be more useful for seniors who need extra care.
Visitation is the most common type of pet therapy, where animals visit the homes or living facilities of seniors. Animal-assisted therapy strategically uses trained animals to improve a patient’s health.
Benefits of Pet Therapy
Seniors may face some unique challenges, including mobility limitations and memory loss.
While there are a variety of effective treatments available to care for these issues, the benefits of pet therapy for seniors shouldn’t be overlooked. When combined with other therapies and treatments, interaction with animals can have several advantages.
Pets can lower stress for people of all ages, including seniors. Spending time with a pet can lower heart rates and produce more stress-busting hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin.
Socialization can be a challenge for some seniors but socializing with an animal in a controlled environment can offer low-intensity interaction. This can help build confidence and reduce feelings of loneliness.
Therapy pets can help to promote healthy physical strength and activity for seniors.
For some, it can be beneficial to engage in easy exercises with pet therapy dogs and cats. Simply stroking a dog can help build strength in underused muscles. It can also be helpful for those who are recovering from a stroke or other illness.
For others, more intense physical activity might be possible. Walking a dog or playing with a cat can be a great form of exercise.
Routine and Stability
If pet therapy is used regularly, it can provide a sense of stability and predictability for seniors.
An unfortunate truth about aging is that life changes quickly, and some seniors might be dealing with illness or the loss of a loved one.
Having a pet around on a regular basis can provide a sense of routine. The senior can look forward to interacting and caring for the animal each day, offering stability and a sense of purpose.
How to Use Pet Therapy
If you’re caring for an aging loved one, consider using pet therapy.
If you are the owner of a trained therapy animal, reach out to your local senior and assisted living facilities to volunteer.
For more on healthy senior living, be sure to visit our blog.