Animals provide a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and redirect attention away from stressful situations and toward pleasure. Animal-assisted therapy patients report developing a bond with an animal helps in developing a strong sense of self-worth, trust, stabilize their emotions, and improving their communication, self-regulation, and socialization skills. For this reason, many assisted living facilities have started to offer pet therapy as a service.
What Is Pet Therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy, commonly referred to as Pet Therapy, is a technique that uses animals to interact with seniors. There are numerous reasons for this practice, including in helping improve their quality of life. Studies reveal that fifteen minutes spent bonding with an animal promotes hormonal changes within the brain. When around an animal, serotonin, our feel-good hormone, along with prolactin and oxytocin are introduced into our bodies. The chemical reaction drops our stress-levels and sends our brains into a state of inner peace.
Key Benefits of Pet Therapy
Many seniors suffer from depression, usually as a result of loneliness or isolation, either because friends and family members cannot visit on a regular basis, or they aren’t as active as they previously were. Additionally, new lifestyle changes can be impactful for seniors, and increase stress levels in the body as a reaction. Contact with therapy animals can bring some reserved seniors out of their shells, making them more comfortable and communicative.
For seniors, the benefits of a furry companion can be life-altering. Walking a dog is a great cardiovascular exercise. Additionally, the simple act of caring for a pet-petting, brushing, feeding-provides both mild activity and a way to stay engaged with the world.
Pets offer seniors a sense of purpose, which greatly impacts their self-worth and overall satisfaction with life. During what can be a lonely time of life, the unconditional love of a pet can offer a connection and encourage socialization with others, mental stimulation, and a reiterated interest in life.
Sundowners Syndrome Treatment
Pet therapy for seniors has also proven to be a robust tool for “Sundowners Syndrome”, or evening periods of increased agitation and confusion patients with Alzheimer’s. Animals offer non-verbal communication and heartfelt acceptance, which can be soothing for seniors who difficulty using language.
Additional Benefits of Pet Therapy
- Seniors with heart conditions who own pets tend to outlive those who don’t.
- The ability to have something to pet or touch can result in lower blood pressure, normal heart rate, and reduced stress.
- For dementia patients, animals can be soothing to those who have difficulty using language.
- Feeding and grooming can help increase seniors’ physical skills and help them become more active.
- Animals can help improve socialization and listen without judgment while offering unbiased affection. This is especially useful for seniors who desire to share thoughts they may not be comfortable telling loved ones.
Pet therapy is a great way to age in place. Many seniors gain great benefits from having an animal nearby and interacting with them throughout their day. If the senior is healthy enough, the rewards of pet ownership can be life-changing. An aging pet could be the best medicine and your new best friend.