For those of us who are animal lovers, we know all about the joy our four-legged friends bring to our lives. That joy has been researched – and lo and behold, time spent with animals does indeed improve quality of life in several ways. Pet therapy has been around for decades, long before its benefits went under the microscope. Generally, it falls into one of three categories: ownership therapy, visitation therapy, and animal-assisted therapy. Regardless of the type, the benefits of pet therapy to the health and well-being of seniors are numerous:
Offers Companionship and Support
A furry friend is a forever friend who loves unconditionally and without judgment. Pets never tire of spending time with their owner and listening to them talk, never get bored or wish to be elsewhere. Older adults who own pets – and even those who only visit with one periodically – feel less loneliness in the animal’s presence. Additionally, the responsibilities involved in owning a pet naturally require socialization, whether through vet visits or taking the pet on walks in the community.
Counteracts Anxiety and Depression
Those who spend time with animals have been shown to be less likely to report feelings of anxiety and depression. Animals, having no expectations other than simple love and affection, have a calming effect on their human companions. Their presence sparks happiness and perhaps even brings back memories of beloved pets from years past.
Reduces Stress and Improves Heart Health
Cuddling and petting an animal reduces the stress hormone cortisol and the release of oxytocin, known as the “feel-good hormone.” For this reason, service dogs are often paired with individuals experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder – and having a service dog in addition to other treatment regimens has been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD among veterans. Reduced stress is good for the heart, too!
Here at The Hickman, we invite residents to bring their furry companions to their new homes. Furthermore, pet therapy visits from dedicated community members are a regular occurrence. Our residents derive great joy seeing the many sweet-tempered dogs performing tricks and stopping by for pats on the head. We recognize the benefits of pet therapy and are proud to offer it as one of the many ways that make The Hickman like home. Contact us today to schedule your tour!