The presence of a beloved pet or animal companion can bring joy and comfort to people of all ages, especially seniors. Whilst not all situations are the same, if you have a senior in your life that is an animal lover, introducing an animal companion system can be hugely beneficial to their mental and physical health. Spending time with an animal companion, similarly to spending time with a loved one, can assist with isolation-related loneliness, social enrichment and physical engagement. Even if a senior is unable to care full time for a live-in pet there are a variety of pet therapy options available that may suit their needs and boost their quality of life.
Types of Pet Therapy
Pet therapy options depending on your unique living circumstances and the level of time and effort available to you. For those who have a love for animals, but do not have the means to be responsible for a pet full time, there is Visitation Therapy which is the most common. Visitation Therapy involves the animal and senior having a visiting relationship. This could mean that the therapy animal visits the senior in their homes, such as a certified therapy dog visiting a senior living community or your friend bringing their dog over for a visit.
Another visitation example could be the senior visiting other locations to be with animals that are unsuited for the home, such as horse-lovers visiting a farm that has horses to visit, or even ride depending on the level of physical fitness. If you are an active senior who loves animals, then Ownership Therapy may be the best option for you. Owning a pet can be valuable for daily mental and physical wellness as they provide constant companionship for isolated seniors and maintain a healthy physical fitness routine with their need for daily exercise.
Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors
Physical Benefits of Pet Therapy
- Increased exercise due to frequent walks and playtime
- Enhanced physical skills related to animal, such as horseback riding
- Decreased stress, lower blood pressure and reduction in mental health issues such as anxiety or depression
- More time spent outside which increases vitamin D from sunlight as well as a calming effect from time spent in nature
Mental Benefits of Pet Therapy
- Increased socialization with animals, as well as people in the community
- Increased social skills
- Decreased isolation and feelings of loneliness
- Enhanced mental enrichment through playtime with animals, as well as through more time spent in the community
- Increased sense of purpose by being responsible for the care of the pet
- Reduced levels of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
- Memory simulation through animal care as well as event planning for visitation
- Improved self-esteem and confidence
Isolation can be emotionally devastating to seniors and may lead to many serious health risks. Love and affection can be hugely beneficial in minimizing mental illness symptoms and increasing the quality of life. This is especially true in these trying times when families and friends are separated for the health of our community, it can be difficult to give seniors the time and social enrichment they deserve.
If you have a senior who loves pets, it may be valuable to consider an option that works for your family. Adopting a dog can be an incredible companion for an active senior, while a cat may be the perfect buddy for a senior who loves indoor activities.
If your elderly loved one has an animal companion but is finding it increasingly difficult to upkeep the physical demands of a pet, it may be time to consider hiring home care services to provide extra support for the animal and companionship to your elderly loved one. Then you will have the peace of mind that you can keep your loved one and their beloved pet together, and know that both pet and senior are well taken care of by a professional caregiver.
We also recommend you check these related articles in our Home Care Service blog: