Animal Therapy for Seniors

Anyone who has loved an adorable dog or heard a sweet cat’s purr knows that animals have a positive and powerful influence on most people. Animals are a source of companionship and comfort that can benefit seniors in many ways. While aging can be lonely and activities once loved may be less appealing, the support from interaction with pets or animals may be more pleasing. Animals often provide therapy to seniors, ranging from cats and dogs to rabbits and fish. Birds, fish, and smaller animals don’t take up much space and do not require as much attention. Even though they require less care all around, these types of animals can still create a more pleasant atmosphere by just being there. Spending time with our beloved fur friends is a popular and effective therapy for older adults.

Animals can be cute and cuddly, but they can also provide health benefits such as helping reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure. In addition, they are great at relieving feelings of depression and loneliness. Seniors having pets or visiting with animals can be beneficial by helping increase physical activity and the amount of social interaction they have. Some studies have even shown that older adults with memory issues who interact with animals have unlocked memories from long ago. Spending time with animals provides a connection with nature, and that connection can release endorphins which make for a happier, healthier mind. The sweet love of a dog or cat goes a long way toward making us feel valued, comforted, and joyous.

There can be some downsides to gifting a furry friend to a loved senior. Some seniors cannot own a pet for numerous reasons, such as location or inability to care for one, or maybe they do not want that responsibility. Seniors and caregivers must discuss what it would mean to own a pet. The good news is that elders don’t necessarily have to own a pet or animal to receive the comfort and companionship they desire. Registered therapy animals are becoming more available for visits at retirement homes, hospitals, or community centers. Another option is to visit a local shelter or farm to spend time with the animals there. Spending some time with those animals can create a simple connection that may not be present otherwise.

Professionals suggest seniors find companionship in whatever sense is most comfortable. The use of animal therapy can be highly beneficial to a lot of people but may only be for some. If owning a pet is an option, and a desire for an older adult, caregivers and loved ones can help make that happen. If owning an animal is not ideal, caregivers and loved ones can make arrangements to get seniors to visit and make connections with animals in the community, whether at a shelter, farm, or through registered therapy animal organizations. The goal is always to ensure that older people can connect with and receive therapy through whatever means best benefit them- animal therapy is just one way to accomplish this.

 

Written by: Sara Frost

 

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