iStock_000030333450_MediumFor many of us, nothing is as soothing as petting a cat curled up on our lap, or throwing a toy for an eager dog just waiting to play. Many of us believe in our hearts that animals have the capacity to heal and bring emotional relief. This is now being proven to be true through research and studies conducted at hospitals and assisted living facilities across the country.

Over the past few decades, we have come to rely on service and therapeutic pets for those with limited mobility, vision, or hearing loss; as well as for those who face mental illness. Studies have shown that heart attack patients with a pet in their lives recover faster and live longer than those who remained pet-less. And, in addition, petting a cat or dog has been linked to lowering blood pressure, reducing heart attack risk, improving mood, and decreasing loneliness.

Whether as assistive or therapeutic pets, or simply as a beloved companion, there are wonderful benefits for our seniors when it comes to animal companionship. 

Service Animals for Seniors

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes a number of tasks deemed assistive and beneficial to those with physical and psychological disabilities. Under ADA classification, pets must go through professional training and provide specific recovery support services.

For seniors with challenges related to mobility, some of the life-changing tasks assistive animals carry out can include responding to an emergency, managing a medication schedule, or retrieving needed items.

Thousands of individuals with hearing or vision impairments rely on service dogs to assist them with street crossings and navigation, alert handlers to possible emergency situations, and let them know when the phone rings or someone is at the door.

Pets as Companions

After retirement, many people begin to feel a sense of restlessness or isolation. Often, children and grandchildren live out of state or have active lives of their own that don’t always allow for frequent visits, and other loved ones may have passed away. This is why pet companionship makes such a significant difference in decreasing feelings of loneliness or isolation. Pets are unaware of age or differences in ability, and so they provide a sense of unconditional love and affection seniors might not otherwise find.

For those living alone, a companion canine will often help to relieve the fear of living alone, as their canine friend will alert them to any unusual noises, and potentially keep trouble at bay.

Pets as Exercise Buddies

One of the important, yet often overlooked, advantages of pet ownership is the sense of purpose our pets give us. This is particularly true when we are experiencing depression, grief, or major life changes and are struggling to find a comforting routine or schedule.

From that early morning walk to changing the litter box, pets offer a consistent and daily care routine that helps older adults stay active and engaged. A trip to the dog park, for example, might inspire new friendships with other dog parents, or finding the perfect catnip toy for Mr. Whiskers might provide an opportunity to get out of the house.  And, if you have ever been a pet parent to a house bunny or parakeet, you know how often cages need to be cleaned!

Pets provide a strong sense of responsibility, nurturing, and commitment, which, in turn, can help seniors maintain a schedule, get exercise, and feel connected.

If you are considering adopting a pet or know a senior who might benefit from adopting a pet, feel free to contact your Springbrook team. We can help you determine the best pet match and answer any questions you might have about your new friend.