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Five Ways Seniors Benefit From Pet Therapy

August 20, 2019

Over the last two decades scientists and researchers have taken a much closer look at the benefits seniors derive from animal therapy, which involves introducing a pet companion into the life of an elderly person in order to enrich their lives. A 2012 study revealed, in fact, that spending just 15 minutes with a pet can be beneficial.

Here, then, are the top five benefits of such therapy:

  1. Greater Happiness: Interacting with a friendly dog or cuddly cat has been proven to cause a dopamine release within the deep reward centers of the brain. Dopamine, commonly referred to as the “happy hormone,” helps ward off depression, anxiety and other mental-health disorders. Happier seniors tend to stay more active, resulting in longer, more fulfilling lives. 
  2. Improved Heart Health: Research has proven that seniors who own pets will usually outlive those who do not. That’s because senior pet owners tend to be far more active. As anyone that owns a dog can explain, taking care of them requires a tremendous amount of energy and free time. They need to be walked, let outside to go to the bathroom, bathed and even cuddled. All these activities have proven to increase the heart health of seniors. It is particularly notable that all that activity can reduce seniors’ blood pressure, as that is a major risk factor in stroke and other debilitating illnesses.
  3. Improved Memory: Animals can rekindle childhood memories of those seniors afflicted with advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been shown that pets have a calming effect on such patients, and improve their mood. There are, however, caveats about such interactions, in regards to the breed of dog (the calmer, the better), the time of day when the pet visits (the earlier, the better) and the mood of the patient, which can vary.
  4. Improved Socialization: It is not uncommon for seniors, especially those advanced in age, to start to withdraw socially. This is usually the result of failing health, failing eyesight or neurochemical deficiencies that develop later in life. Thankfully, pets have the ability to resocialize seniors, especially those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Animals give unconditional love and listen without judgment, which in turn literally rewires the social centers within the brain.
  5. Greater Sense of Purpose: Seniors tend to have too much time on their hands, but pets can fill some of that with their demands. They need to be walked. They need to be fed. They need to go to the vet. That adds meaning to elders’ lives, and improves their self-esteem.
Categories: General