Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT), involves using animals to help individuals cope with various mental, emotional, and physical conditions. Therapy animals are typically dogs, cats, or other domesticated animals trained to interact with people in a therapeutic setting. Pet therapy has been shown to have numerous benefits for seniors living in personal care homes, including the following:
Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Many seniors living in personal care homes experience stress and anxiety due to various factors, including health problems, loneliness, and boredom. Pet therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by providing seniors with comfort and companionship. The presence of therapy animals has been shown to reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body.
Improving Physical Health
Pet therapy can also benefit seniors physically. Studies have shown that interacting with therapy animals can lead to lower blood pressure and heart rate and an increase in the release of endorphins, which can help reduce pain and promote relaxation.
Increasing Social Interaction
Social interaction can be a major challenge for seniors in personal care homes. Many seniors may feel isolated or lonely, negatively impacting their mental health. Pet therapy can increase social interaction by allowing seniors to connect with other residents and staff members through their shared love of animals.
Providing a Sense of Purpose
Caring for and interacting with therapy animals can provide a renewed sense of purpose and meaning for seniors who may feel like they have lost their sense of purpose. Many seniors may have had pets in the past, and interacting with therapy animals can bring back fond memories and provide a sense of comfort.
At The Hickman, pet therapy is a regular part of our programming. Every Wednesday, our furry friends Gracie and Stu visit. On Saturdays, the residents look forward to visits from Grant and Milo. And we have frequent visits from the most popular collie in Chester County, Ingrid the Collie, and her companion, John DeSantis, a volunteer at The Hickman. Recently, Ingrid was named the Shining Star Ambassador for 2023, signifying her as the best Community Service dog in the country. The Chester County Commissioners recognized them for their pet therapy contributions naming them in the National Therapy Animal Day proclamation, celebrated on April 30th.
The presence of therapy animals like Ingrid and others has been shown to have numerous benefits for seniors living in personal care homes, and The Hickman is committed to providing their residents with the best possible care.
Click here to watch: Chester County Commissioners Recognize National Therapy Animal Day.