What is Pet Therapy for the Elderly?

A furry friend to cuddle and play with can sometimes feel like the cure for any illness. A wagging tail greeting you when you walk through the door or the calming purrs of a contented cat on your lap can be just what you need after a long day. The loyalty and companionship of a devoted pet has many benefits for the average adult and even more benefits for the elderly. If pet ownership is not possible for an elderly person for one reason or another, they can certainly consider pet therapy.Image of Therapy dog being pet by an elderly man in a wheelchair and a younger woman

What is pet therapy for the elderly?

Pet therapy, which is sometimes also known as animal assisted therapy, is a type of therapy that uses pets as a form of companionship and treatment. The animals interact with the seniors in ways that help improve their quality of life. The idea of a dog or cat improving the quality of an elderly person’s life may sound a bit difficult to believe, especially if you are not a pet person yourself. But research has actually shown a variety of benefits of pet therapy for the elderly.

Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors

Pet therapy benefits for the elderly are numerous. Many seniors find themselves suffering from loneliness or depression. Perhaps their spouse has passed and they live alone. Perhaps they live in an assisted living facility and their family simply cannot visit very often. A pet can offer companionship and bring a lonely or depressed senior out of their shell. Having something to pet or touch can result in a lower heart rate and reduced stress. Walking a dog, even for a short time, increases mobility and gives a senior a reason to get up and out of the house. Just being near an animal to care for, even if the senior does not own the pet personally, can give them a sense of purpose and make them feel needed. Interacting with a therapy pet can provide mental stimulation as well. The senior may interact with the pet handler. The therapy pet may also remind them of a pet they knew earlier in their life.

Several positive impacts have been noticed when using pet therapy for dementia patients. Dementia patients may have a difficult time communicating with others. Often these patients feel more comfortable communicating with a pet. There is no fear of judgement or worry that the pet will not understand. They will simply listen and provide unbiased affection.

The benefits of pet therapy for older adults should not be overlooked. You can find pet therapy near you by visiting https://www.therapydogs.com/alliance-therapy-dogs/ or https://www.pawsforpeople.org/. A quick google search can also find local pet therapy organizations, which are growing in number and popularity. Help a senior near you spend some time with a furry friend and reap the benefits.