Life changes whether we want it to or not. It’s a tough fact to embrace, but it is the truth. This can be especially tough for seniors to grapple with. This is because as we grow older, we may not have the same capabilities we once did. As seniors struggle with new challenges like mobility limitations or memory loss, they need to find healthy outlets to relieve stress and to just simply find enjoyment. Fortunately, pet therapy has emerged as a valuable tool for improving the quality of life for older adults. At Lester Senior Living, we have fully embraced pet therapy and have regularly scheduled visits onsite with therapy dog, Harmony. This is a beloved activity by our residents and staff, because really, who doesn’t love petting a sweet pup? In this article, our independent living team in Morris County will take a more detailed look at the key benefits of pet therapy for seniors.
Reduce stress and anxiety. Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels in older adults. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones like cortisol. This can lead to improved overall health and a greater sense of well-being.
Combat loneliness and depression. Many older adults experience feelings of isolation and social disconnection, especially if they have lost a spouse or close friends. Animals provide a source of companionship and affection that can fill this void and help seniors feel less alone.
Improve physical health. Many seniors struggle with mobility and may have difficulty getting enough exercise. Walking a dog or playing with a cat can provide a low-impact form of exercise that can improve their fitness level.
Strengthen cognitive abilities. Interacting with animals can improve memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. It can also provide a sense of purpose and structure that can be beneficial for seniors who may feel adrift or without direction.
Pet Therapy Services in Senior Living Communities
Many senior living communities recognize the benefits of pet therapy and offer programs to help their residents connect with animals. These programs can take a variety of forms, from on-site pet visits to resident-owned pets that are allowed to live in the community. One popular program is the use of therapy dogs. Dogs like Harmony are specially trained to provide emotional support and companionship to older adults. They may visit individual residents in their rooms or make regular appearances in common areas like the dining room or activity center.
Communities that offer pet therapy programs like Lester Senior Living can provide a valuable service to their residents and help them stay connected to the world around them. By providing emotional support, physical exercise, and cognitive stimulation, animals can help seniors improve their overall quality of life.