We often see older adults suffer from acute depression for physical vulnerability or loneliness. To avoid such an unwanted condition, most aged care services are moving towards animal assisted therapy also known as pet therapy. There are numerous benefits of pet ownership for the elderly. It can range from reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, to increase social interaction and physical activity.
For those elderly who live in an assistive home or receive support to continue living in their own home, pet therapy can prove more than just beneficiary.
According to recent researches, the companionship of pets can alleviate depression to a large extent. It also helps elderly pet owners regain self-esteem, confidence and make them more fit, less lonely and more socially expressive.
Physical Benefits of Pets
Researchers have proven some facts that a pet can have a number of beneficial physical effects over the owner which may include:
- Strengthening cardiovascular health (i.e. lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides and in men)
- Increased physical activity. Dogs especially help us get out and enjoy the outdoors while getting some regular exercise.
- The pets are great motivators and personal trainers (especially the dogs). They never want to miss a training session no matter what the weather is.
- Fewer visits to the doctor.
Psychological Benefits of Pets
Apart from cited physical benefits, pets have a great effect on the owner’s mind too. These may include:
- Pets do play a significant role in helping older adults recover from the loss of their loved ones. It’s quite likely that with the loss of a spouse, elderly tend to merge in depression. To most Aged Care Providers, having a pet can work as a mental healer in such condition and help the older adult eradicate acute depression or loneliness.
- For elderly who are living with dementia or those who may have difficulty using language, pets can be a soothing option for them. It can even help these individuals speak and articulate themselves when comfortable.
- Pets provide an opportunity for non-verbal communication that can help engage those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- Mere 10 -15 minutes with your loved dog, cat, or another pet animal can augment brain activity and serotonin levels in older adults. Serotonin is known as “the feel-good hormone” and plays a crucial role in bodily function as well as our experiences of positive emotions.
Pet therapy is, therefore, recommended by most Aged Care Support Services, either through owning a pet or Community Participating Program in dedicated Aged Care Programs.
Regards: OSAN Ability Assist