It’s no secret that interacting with animals is good for our health. Research finds that even just 15 minutes spent with a pet can boost our body’s production of the “happiness” hormones serotonin and oxytocin, which help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. For this reason, pet therapy has become a popular program in many retirement communities to help improve the social, emotional, and physical well being of older adults. Here are three great benefits of pet therapy for seniors.
Loneliness and isolation are prevalent problems among older adults. Many retirement communities organize pet visitation therapy for residents, which allow older adults to interact with pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits, or even miniature horses without the responsibility of owning a pet. Spending time with animals provides emotional support, helping older adults reduce daily stress and combat feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Petting, grooming, or simply holding a furry friend may lead to improved communication and socialization in older adults. In many cases, pet therapy is a group activity, giving older adults the opportunity to meet other residents and share a common interest. After interacting with a pet, seniors are often encouraged to be more interactive with other residents and their caregivers.
Therapy animals are well trained to be affectionate toward humans and offer unconditional acceptance. Bonding with an animal boosts one’s self-esteem and promotes a sense of purpose, which is especially important for older adults experiencing a loss of independence due to illness or age-related conditions.
Pet therapy offers numerous benefits to people of all ages. Today’s retirement communities integrate pet therapy into their communities by hosting weekly visits. Some communities even feature colorful bird aviaries or fish aquariums throughout the facilities for all residents and visitors to enjoy.