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. It gives 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. This is known as pet therapy.
So, just what are the benefits of pet therapy?
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. It can also lower stress, give 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. They also increase 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
Pet therapy has 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 pet can help improve their quality of life. Pets can make seniors feel needed. 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. It lowers levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Pets help decrease levels of agitation, pacing, anxiety and confusion. For example, some experts believe pets can be one of the best methods of managing the difficulties associated with Sundowner’s Syndrome. This syndrome is described as “evening periods of increased agitation and confusion in those with Alzheimer’s disease”. Also, 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. 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. In addition, 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. This 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.
In addition, some assisted living communities have decided to integrate pets into their communities. 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.
And those that are there already are as happy and content as their owners!