What are the benefits of pet therapy for the elderly?
Tuesday, April 17th, 2018 | Blog
Over the years, pet therapy has become increasingly popular, especially for the elderly. Interactions with pets can boost a person’s well-being and offer companionship for those who are experiencing loneliness.
Pet therapy is a type of therapy which involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal may be to improve a patient’s social, emotional or cognitive functioning. Pet therapy can be offered in hospitals, nursing homes, community care or at home. Dogs and cats are the most commonly used pets, but birds, guinea pigs and horses are also used.
The three types of pet therapy available are; ownership therapy (when you’re the owner of the pet), visitation therapy (when pets visit nursing homes, hospitals, and community day centres to spend time with patients/residents), and animal-assisted therapy (designed to refine the patient’s physical skills and build their confidence. All pets will have a basic obedience training, be socialized and understand how to interact with wheelchairs, crutches, and other mobility aids.
Pet therapy has a wide range of benefits, some of which are highlighted below.
Emotional benefits of pet therapy
- Reduces loneliness by providing companionship and giving a source of affection, conversation and activity.
- Provides emotional stability during stressful situations by helping to reduce anxiety and depression.
- The elderly can sometimes feel discouraged by their age and mobility, but engaging with a pet can improve self-esteem and self-confidence by reminding them that they are needed and are loved.
- Walking a dog gets the elderly out of the house and increases social interaction with other pet owners.
Physical benefits of pet therapy
- Walking a dog provides a form of gentle physical exercise, which leads to improved mobility and an overall healthier lifestyle.
- Frequent interaction with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
- The act of stroking a pet produces an automatic relaxation response which is believed to reduce the amount of medication needed by some people.
The above are just a few benefits of pet therapy which allow patients to lead a happier life. If you or a loved one feel you would benefit from pet therapy, talk to your doctor about more information and whether it is suitable for you.