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Pet Therapy – Is it Helpful to Seniors?

July 18th, 2011 · No Comments

Researchers have found that having a pet often helps people feel better both emotionally and physically.  While many people have never heard of pet therapy, also called animal-assisted therapy, those who work with children, seniors, and the chronically ill, know how well having a pet around helps lift the person’s spirit. Pet therapy has been especially helpful to seniors who suffer from depression and other disabilities by helping them get their mind off of their own problems, if only for a little while.

When people start growing old the feeling of isolation is not so noticeable at first. However, as people step over the threshold of their 60s and into their 70s the first signs of isolation begin to become noticeable. Suddenly they are not as active as they once were. Furthermore, family members seem busy enough with their own lives and the occasional visit is all seniors may receive. If that’s not enough, most of their friends may no longer live in the area or have passed away.

The major hazard is the effect isolation and loneliness has on a person’s health; quite simply it begins to deteriorate very rapidly. So how and where does pet therapy come into the picture? Adopting a pet can give a senior a reason to live as they enjoy the companionship and security having a pet provides. If you have any experience with seniors you know how they enjoy talking to their pets.

Pets involved in pet therapy are well trained, nonjudgmental, and nonthreatening. They quietly stay by the side of the person they are spending time with, while remaining friendly. Just their very presence is reassuring to those who are struggling with physical, mental, or emotional problems.

Having a pet helps to lift that dark cloud of depression because the person now feels useful. With a pet on hand to be cared for they have a reason to get up each morning and get on with their day. They will find their quality of life begins to improve. If they have a dog they will need to walk it and that is exercise right there. Exercise leads to an improved appetite and that translates to a healthier lifestyle.

Pet therapy really has many health benefits which include improved heart function, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a definite reduction in stress levels. The brain too benefits from pet therapy in terms of increased cognitive function.

The elderly, who have previously refused to venture outdoors, choosing instead to stay imprisoned within the walls of their home, now find themselves more than happy to venture outdoors. Senior people who keep a pet tend to have more social interaction than those who don’t.

The overall benefits of pet therapy can be summarized as extremely valuable to a senior’s good health and wellbeing. If you have a loved one who is struggling with loneliness and depression, consider pet therapy, for their sake and yours. For more information, you can reach the American Humane Association by clicking this link. They have current information regarding pet therapy that can help you make the right decision for your family members.

Tags: Depression · Seniors · Soul


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