We’ve all heard the saying, “Dogs are man’s best friend,” and now, based on the evidence of scientific research, it appears that dogs, cats and other friendly creatures provide some of our best medicine.
Research Finding: Pets Can Make Us Healthier
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, pets are not only good companions for senior adults, they have also been shown to improve seniors’ health. As a result, assisted living communities have begun to integrate pets into their care through neighborhood pet therapy programs. And, more communities are allowing seniors to bring their companion animals with them if they are able to care for them on their own.
“Having a pet can be greatly beneficial to the health of the older population,” says Dr. Karen Snowden, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “A pet can provide companionship and social opportunities for the elderly population, as well as physical, psychological and emotional health benefits.
“Having to care for a pet provides a sense of need, and having regular interactions with a pet has shown to lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, increase physical activity and enhance social opportunities.
The article, “Pet Therapy in Senior Living” confirms Dr. Snowden’s conclusions, saying, “Research has shown that pet therapy is more than having a cute friend to cuddle with. In fact, there are actually scientific results showing that the physical and mental benefits that come from a furry friend are undeniable. In the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. This is why pet therapy for senior citizens can be so beneficial.”
The Special Benefits of Pet Therapy
Beyond making us feel generally more comfortable and relaxed, research studies have identified an impressive list of the specific ways pet therapy can improve lives. These benefits include:
- Boosting the immune system
- Lowering blood pressure
- Increasing socialization and verbal/nonverbal communication
- Providing purposeful activity
- Decreasing anxiety
- Decreasing expressions of emotional and physical pain
- Reducing boredom and apathy
- Increasing positive social behavior
- Providing new opportunities for love, attention and happiness
- Increasing use of fine and gross motor skills
- Opportunities to reminisce
- Opportunities to laugh and enjoy the animal’s behaviors and antics
In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, Karin Winegar, author of Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform, said “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.”
Undeniably, pets have a unique way of connecting with humans that provides us with a special sense of calm and well-being. In their own way, pets seem to communicate an unspoken sense of trust, caring and acceptance that is hard for their human counterparts to match.
Pet Therapy and Other Holistic Approaches Improve Well-Being
Says Carmen Duren, Executive Director of Provident Village at Canton, “Holistic therapies using pets, music, art and reminiscence activities have proven to be highly beneficial to residents for enhancing their overall physical and emotional wellbeing. Here, we embrace these and other aspects of social engagement with an approach to total wellness that encompasses the mind, body and spirit. Each day is filled with joy, vitality, growth, security and quality care.
“Everything we do at Provident Village at Canton is designed to address your loved one’s intellectual, social, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Our programs are resident-centered and are created with the individual’s preferences, past histories and current abilities in mind. We provide endless opportunities to participate in group activities and create new friendships.”
As the late Charles Schulz of Peanuts wrote, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Today, we can accurately amend that famous metaphor to say, “Happiness and health…” for loved ones in enlightened assisted living communities, this is proving very true.
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Canton
At Provident Village at Canton, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we’ve created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it’s in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident’s specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.