"Pawsitive" Benefits of Pet Visits in the Elder Community.

Posted on

Feb 09, 2016

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They are renowned as faithful companions, loyal service guides, brave rescuers and stealthy navigators. Now it seems our hairy four legged friends are adding another skill to their resumes-Well-being Ambassadors. Long perceived as beneficial by caretakers in the health care field, pet visits are now seriously considered a valid component in the holistic treatment of older individuals suffering from depression, memory loss, physical hardships or cognitive impairment. There continues to be increasing accounts and scientific data to substantiate the positive impact of animal interaction. The American Heart Association attributes the lowering of blood pressure and heartrate to the increased release of the happy hormone Oxytocin during pet visits, while increased serotonin and dopamine levels can assist in calming the mind and then the body of many individuals.

In all fairness, dogs do not have the monopoly on the animal Rx approach. A Perdue University study correlated the decrease in wandering and physical aggression with the addition of fish tanks in Alzheimer wings. Bird cages and outdoor bird feeders have become popular in day care centers and assisted living residences, providing a central location for impromptu socializing. And many a bunny, tame guinea pig or cat has been passed around, their silken coats providing soft, non- invasive sensory stimulation for all participants, most noteworthy those individuals isolated due to extreme physical or cognitive impairments. Thinking outside the box, Activity Directors have introduced potbellied pigs and, yes, even a monkey, to the expanding Noahs Ark of medicinal animals.

Owning a pet requires dedication, responsible oversight, and physically demanding activities so for many elderly households, owning a pet isnt a viable option. Pet visits at senior centers, adult day and assisted living centers and nursing homes can fill the void. Quite simply, animals provide non-judgmental acceptance and affection, redirection and diversion for agitated individuals, memory invoking catalysts for reminiscing, plausible study-backed heart health improvements and a shared subject that encourages communications and socializing. Pets can reach beyond language barriers, memory hiccups, immobilized limbs and emotional walls to the universal need to give and receive affection. Emotional, physical and cognitive well- being all addressed with one prescription; sans the usual three page side effects warning.

Pet visits. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

This article was submitted by Denise Thorud, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
for Windsor House Adult Day Health Care Centers

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The Pawsitive Health Benefits of Owning a Pet for Seniors

For older adults, life can become quieter and lonely as the years go by. One way to combat this life change is by owning a pet. The health benefits of owning a pet for seniors far outweigh the work that goes into owning one.Our furry, feathery, or even scaly family members can provide a variety of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. The bond between seniors and their pets goes far beyond mere companionship. Here are some of the top health benefits of owning a pet for seniorsReduces Loneliness And IsolationAs they get older, many seniors experience feelings of social isolation and loneliness. This can lead to depression and other significant health problems. Having a pet, whether its a dog, cat, or even a bird, provides companionship and helps to reduce these feelings of isolation. Pets are loyal and loving, offering unconditional affection that can significantly improve your mental and emotional well-being.Increases Physical ActivityOne of the biggest benefits of owning a pet, particularly an active dog, is that it forces you to be physical. Dogs need to be walked, which in turn encourages regular physical activity on your part. Seniors with dogs are more likely to go for daily walks or play with them in the yard. Even this little bit of physical activity helps maintain mobility, joint flexibility, and cardiovascular health. In addition, physical activity of any kind leads to a stronger immune system and a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.Lowers Stress And AnxietySimply looking at a picture of a little puppy or kitten is almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Studies show that petting a dog or cat can trigger the release of the mood-regulating hormone serotonin. It also increases the feel good hormone dopamine while decreasing the level of the stress hormone cortisol. This fluctuation helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Additionally, a pets rhythmic, soothing presence can help lower blood pressure, contributing to overall cardiovascular health.Boosts Mental AlertnessInteracting with pets can stimulate mental alertness and cognitive function. While training your pet and teaching them tricks helps to boost their mental capacity, it also helps to maintain your mental acuity. This mental stimulation can delay the onset of cognitive decline and reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimers disease.Fosters A Sense Of PurposeMost of us work hard and look forward to the day we can finally hang up our work boots and retire. However, when that day finally comes, many seniors often experience a diminished sense of purpose. Owning a pet can give you back a sense of responsibility and purpose. Caring for a pet requires routine tasks like feeding, grooming, and exercise, providing structure to your days and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.Enhances Social ConnectionsA study has shown pet owners are more apt to meet their neighbors than non-pet owners. Pets make great icebreakers for seniors when they are out on walks or at pet-friendly facilities. This can give you an opportunity to connect with others and strike up a conversation.Reduces The Risk Of Allergies And AsthmaAlthough it sounds like it would be the opposite, having a pet has been found to reduce the risk of developing allergies and asthma the older we get. This can be an added health benefit for seniors who have had pets throughout their lives.Get Your Purrfect CompanionOwning a pet can do wonders for your health and well-being. These little bundles of joy enrich seniors lives in ways that extend far beyond companionship. The emotional, physical, and mental health benefits of having a pet cannot be argued or overlooked. Seniors who share their lives with a furry friend often experience reduced stress, increased physical activity, enhanced emotional well-being, and a greater sense of purpose. This article was submitted by VIPCare.  For more information visit the website: getvipcare.com

Seniors and Pets: The Benefits of Interaction

In senior living communities, the employees strive daily to bring a bit of joy back to someones life. Not many people acknowledge the impact that having a pet can have on you until you can no longer have one. Many also do not know the outstanding opportunities offered to communities nationwide to allow seniors and pets to interact further and the benefits this can have on both parties.Betsy is one of the seniors with these benefits in North Naples, FL. Each month, caregivers witness the wide grin that spreads across Betsys face when bunnies visit the assisted living community where she resides. She spends the hour holding and petting the bunnies, talking to them while continuously smiling. They are so sweet. I love these bunnies, Betsy says with one in her lap.Health organizations worldwide have long documented the benefits of pets for seniors. Having a pet therapy team visit or pets residing within a senior community can combat loneliness and isolation while also bringing comfort and companionship to the residents. These animals can also reduce stress while promoting overall health and wellness. The American Heart Association Journal acknowledged that the relationship between seniors and pet ownership reduced cardiovascular disease problems. Recent reports have suggested an association of dog companionship with lower blood pressure levels, improved lipid profile, and diminished sympathetic responses to stress.There are several ways seniors and pets can interact, even if they can no longer fully care for their own: Visitation Therapy: Visitation therapy is one of the most common ways associated with senior communities. This program allows animals to visit older adults in a senior living community, retirement community, or their homes. The pets, in this case, are usually either certified pets that people will bring to these communities or older shelter animals who also crave this attention. Animal-assisted Therapy: There is also animal-assisted therapy where seniors are paired with animals that help them with physical skills and build confidence. With this, animals not only provide people with some time to enjoy their company but also assist on walks, movement, and more. In-Home Pet: There is pet ownership for seniors who can care for a pet. While not many communities allow residential pets, some have been known to make the exception and allow their residents to have smaller animals residing with them.Betsy owned pets as a child and younger adult. One of the aspects of moving into a community that was difficult for Betsy was the lack of her pets and the daily interaction that came with having one. On the days when the bunnies arrive, Betsy is more talkative with others and animated. The pet visits help with her social skills, lessen anxiety, and bring her great happiness. Providing seniors with these interactions not only gives them something to look forward to, but also companionship for those who do not thrive in social situations.  Brian Wierima, community relations coordinator for the Gulf Coast Humane Society, helps run a Senior to Senior program in Lee County. Volunteers with the humane society take older dogs to five local senior living facilities in the community.We try to have these seniors interact with senior dogs, eight years or older, Wierima began. They are calmer. Their behavior and manners are better and it pairs well.The dogs go to recreation rooms for larger group visits or to individual rooms for seniors who do not wish to participate in larger groups. Providing both a group setting and an isolated environment allows individuals to take advantage of this event while not pushing seniors into situations that might make them uncomfortable.The seniors just love it, Wierima exclaimed. It is great for both our senior dogs and the seniors. There are benefits both ways. It is a very beneficial program. By the time you leave, you see the results. There are smiles. Also, it breaks up a routine for the residents, and many of them previously owned pets. In many of the senior residential homes, they cant have pets, so having some time with a dog fills that void they lost.It has become more common for humane societies to provide programs that encourage seniors to take these available times with the animals to fill a gap they might be missing. In some instances, if allowed, it also promotes adopting or fostering these senior pets.  Gulf Coast Humane Society is one of the partners offering authorized communities animal fostering. 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It makes a difference.Betsy is not the only senior who has benefited from pet therapy activities. Across the nation, hundreds of communities provide similar opportunities to their residents, and the number continues to grow. Are seniors in your area looking for similar pet interaction options? Contact your local senior advisor today for more information on how to provide this in your community, or with assistance finding a community that does. 

Seniors and Pets: A Winning Combination

Do you own a pet? If the answer is yes, youre in luck. Pet ownership has been shown to offer physical, psychological and social benefits for all ages, but especially for seniors. This is due to the unique challenges that seniors face due to natural life changes, including decreased mobility, deteriorating health and reduced social contact.According to the2019 National Poll on Healthy Aging, sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, 55 percent of adults ages 50 to 80 have at least one pet (dogs were the most popular; then cats; then, hamsters, birds and fish), and most of these owners reported seeing benefits of some kind.But the reported benefits of owning a pet were even more notable for older adults who live alone or struggle with their health. A total of 72 percent of owners said their pets help them manage their physical or emotional symptoms. Read on to learn more about how pets can help seniors live fuller, happier lives:Physical BenefitsFirst, pets tend to encourage physical activity. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, about two-thirds of pet owners said their pets help them stay physically active and stick to a healthy routine. Pets can provide some degree of cardiovascular exercise through walking and grooming, and this mild activity can help stimulate the brain and improve appetite for seniors who struggle with eating.Psychological BenefitsFor seniors, having a pet as your companion will reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Nearly eight in 10 owners said their pets help them reduce stress, and nearly nine in 10 owners said they help them enjoy life and feel loved. Additionally, owning a pet can give seniors a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives as their former responsibilities and social contacts begin to fall away.Social BenefitsSome studies have shown that if you already have a strong social network, owning a pet doesnt make a significant difference in your happiness level. However, pet ownership can be vital for older adults, who, as a group, experience a high frequency of loneliness and social isolation.A total of 65 pet owners also reported that having a pet helps them connect with other people. Why? Caring for a pet necessarily requires a level of connection with the outside world, whether that is taking your pet to the vet, groomer, pet store, the dog park or on walks in the neighborhood. Duties like these require owners to leave the house and engage with their environment.What now?If youre interested in adopting a pet and you have confidence in your physical and financial ability to provide the necessary care, then its time to consider what kind of animal to adopt. Some tips: cats are best if you have mobility issues, since you dont have to walk them, and a senior dog or cat tends to require less maintenance than a younger, more energetic pet.If youre interested in the benefits of a pet but not quite comfortable with the cost or the commitment, you might try pet sitting for a friend, or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Pet therapy can also be very beneficial for seniors, so consider reaching out to your local branch of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs to set up an appointment.Pets at Golden WestGood news for pet owners! At Golden West Senior Livings independent living apartments, seniors dont have to give up their pets when they move in. For an additional, non-refundable security deposit accompanied by our signed Pet Policy, residents can bring their pets along with them, provided they can care for them on their own. To learn more about Golden Wests pet policy, contact us at (303) 444-3967.