Pets offer comfort and companionship to their owners while being a part of the family. Owning a pet can add new life to any individual, giving them a reason to keep active while reducing stress and improving their general health. Interacting with pets can have a direct influence on your health, from lowering your blood pressure and increasing levels of serotonin to helping you get more exercise.
ENCOURAGE SOCIAL INTERACTION
During what can be a lonely time of life, the unconditional love of a dog, cat or other animal can be a connection to more socialization with others, lowered stress, mental stimulation and a renewed interest in life. Not only do pets offer companionship, but they can increase the quantity and the quality of social interactions among their human owners. For example, seniors who are pet owners often engage in more frequent conversations, and increased social interaction is also helpful for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as they can benefit from staying busy and involved in activities.
IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
Being around pets has been shown to have beneficial effects on people’s mental and physical health. For seniors who struggle with dementia, depression or other mental health issues, being able to spend time with a dog, cat or other animal can help improve their quality of life. Pets can make seniors feel needed, and that feeling can translate into a greater sense of purpose and self-worth. Just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Pets have been shown to help decrease levels of agitation, pacing, anxiety and confusion. Some experts believe pets can be one of the best methods of managing the difficulties associated with Sundowner’s Syndrome, “evening periods of increased agitation and confusion in those with Alzheimer’s disease”. Animals’ non-verbal communication can be soothing for those with difficulty using language. Pets communicate with those living with Alzheimer’s disease on a non-verbal level, and that connection helps to improve their feelings of self-worth, including those whose disease has progressed.
IMPROVE PHYSICAL HEALTH
For seniors, the benefits of a pet can be life-changing. Walking a dog is great cardiovascular exercise, but just the simple act of caring for a pet provides a way to stay engaged with the world. This exercise results in an increased heart rate, lower blood pressure and lowered stress levels. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. This is why pets for the elderly can be so beneficial.
Some assisted living communities offer therapy dog visitations. Spending time with therapy dogs provides residents with a chance to become more social, which can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. For those who are reluctant to join in regular social activities, having the chance to spend time with therapy dogs provides a good alternative. Pet therapy gives residents a simple yet effective way to keep their minds active and focused on something positive, whether they spend visits petting dogs, talking to or about them or walking around with them. Additionally, not just dogs and cats are used to improve health. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s residents at communities began to eat more healthfully when something as small as aquariums were introduced into their dining rooms.
In addition, some assisted living communities have decided to integrate pets into their communities, as the pet therapy benefits to the residents is overwhelming. The key to an overall healthy relationship for both the resident and their pet is to have a pet friendly community, such as Avanti Senior Living. With a dedicated dog park soon to be completed, pets at Avanti are not only welcomed, they are encouraged.
And those that are there already are as happy and content as their owners!