The benefits of pet therapy
“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no question; they pass no criticisms.” What English novelist George Eliot probably had in mind when writing about our four-legged friends was their ability to brighten up your day without leaving behind any judgment or reservations (maybe a few stray hairs, though).
Pet therapy has positive effects on everyone, especially seniors. Whether cheering you up after a bad day or keeping your blood pressure low, here are some of the many health benefits of pets.
Pet therapy’s benefits on physical health are abundant. “We know from studies that interacting with pets can have a more direct influence on your health, from lowering your blood pressure and increasing levels of serotonin to helping you get more exercise,” says Dr. Patricia McConnell, an animal behaviorist and author of “For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.”i
In addition to lowering your blood pressure and increasing serotonin levels, pet therapy for seniors can improve their cardiovascular health, release endorphins, and decrease stress levels.ii With all of this in mind, dogs and cats are not the only ones who benefit from a belly rub or scratch behind the ears.
The health benefits of pets extend beyond the physical; spending time with a pet also has the potential to significantly improve one’s mental health. Pets can be a great stress relief for those who are finding their stress levels are too high. In addition to alleviating stress and promoting better mental health, spending time with a pet can also:
Lift your spirits and reduce depression.
- Decrease feelings of isolation, alienation, and loneliness.
- Lower anxiety.
- Provide comfort and promote relaxation.
Socialization does not have to stem only from human-to-human contact. Spending time with a four-legged friend can also help bolster one’s social life. A study from the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias found
statistically significant decreases in agitated behaviors and increases in positive social interactions of those who participate in pet companionship.iii
Engaging with pets can also increase both quality and quantity of social interactions with others, such as fellow residents at Holiday Retirement communities. In fact, some of our residents took it upon themselves to set up play dates for their pets, giving
residents time to chat with each other and play with their pets at the same time!
Becoming a healthier you
Pet therapy for seniors is one of many ways Holiday Retirement remains committed to the well being of our residents. Whether spending time with a pet of your own, a neighbor’s pet, or taking a few moments to give a belly scratch to a visiting animal, the advantages to you and the animal are tangible, positive, and above all, fun!
i. Courtenay, E. (2008, July 16). Pet therapy provides far-reaching health benefits for older adults. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/emotional-wellness/pet-
ii. PAWS for People. (n.d.). Benefits of pet therapy Retrieved from http://www.pawsforpeople.org/who-we-are/benefits-
iii. Richardson, PhD, CTRS, N. E. (2003). Effects of animal-assisted therapy on agitated behaviors and social interactions of older adults with dementia. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias 18 6), 353-358.
Retrieved from https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/Documents/PAC/DementiaAndAAT_Richeson.pdf
Holiday Retirement offers numerous resident programs and amenities designed for promoting the well being of our residents. Contact Holiday Retirement to learn more about these and other exciting programs, and to find a location near you.