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Pet therapy: better health through companionship, joy and unconditional love

For a long time people have acknowledged that owning a pet is an enjoyable and rewarding experience, particularly for seniors. More than being just cute and cuddly, many studies have found that owning a pet provides significant health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, fighting heart disease, stroke and depression. This is why more nursing homes around the country are now introducing companion animals.

As staff at a senior living home in Austin, Texas declared, “We love our residents and we love their pets. Pets have a special way of lighting up our residents’ hearts and we feel that this is one more way that makes our community a home!”

According to a study by the University of Minnesota, along with various experts in the field of pet therapy, the following benefits of owning a pet have been found:

  • Having a pet actually lowers medical costs. It’s been found that seniors that own pets require fewer medical appointments than those who do not. This is especially the case with more minor health issues.
  • Pets alleviate loneliness.When the elderly are recovering from long-term illness, loneliness is one of the largest obstacles to recovery. Patients who have suffered heart attacks and own pets have approximately five times the survival rate of patients who do not.

pet therapy tips for the aged - Sage Institute

  • Heart patients who are pet owners live longer than those who don’t have pets. Likewise, those who have a pet by their side during difficult situations suffer less increases to heart rate and blood pressure.
  • People who don’t own cats are 30 to 40% more likely to die of heart disease than cat owners.
  • Senior citizens with pets have more emotional stability in times of stress. Those of us who have our own furry companion know too well the amazing comfort and companionship a pet can provide during difficult times.
  • Owning a pet helps combat depression.
  • Pets assist people to adapt. This is especially useful for the elderly when life changes such as living in a new environment or losing friends or spouses are a major cause for concern. Pet owners receive a huge emotional benefit from the consistency and companionship provided by their human – animal relationship.
  • Caring and interacting with a pet requires more physical activity than living alone. Even if the pet is small, or the elderly owner is not responsible for exercising the pet, the daily interactions of providing care for and playing with the animal can provide more activity for the senior person.

pet companion for seniors - Sage Institute of Aged Care

  • Certain dogs can be trained to predict the onset of a seizure. The trained dogs can then alert the individual and others of an upcoming problem.
  • Stroking and patting an animal reduces a person’s blood pressure and induces relaxation. Studies have proven that there are also long-term positive effects on blood pressure.
  • Having a dog or cat also encourages social interaction, stimulates conversation and encourages physical activity with others.

Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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