Pets and the elderly can be great companions. There are a number of benefits of pet ownership for the elderly, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and increasing social interaction and physical activity. For those who live in a nursing home or receive support to continue living in their own home pet ownership is about so much more than health benefits, but also about companionship.   Man with dogs in a sports car

The science behind pets and the elderly  

Pets undoubtedly make us happier and healthier. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that pets provide meaningful social support for owners. 

Evidence consistently found that pets represented important social relationships, with significant benefits to their owners. Elderly pet owners showed greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, less lonely, more conscientious and more socially outgoing. 

Don’t forget the importance of touch, there aren’t many socially accepted situations in which we can touch others, but stroking and hugging pets is one such way. This lessens loneliness, which unfortunately, many Australian Seniors are experiencing. 

Pets also play an important role in helping people recover from loss. Elderly people who had recently lost a spouse fared much better if they had a strong attachment to a pet. They suffered significantly less depression, with their pets providing a powerful buffering effect against grief and stress. 
IN FACT OUR PETS ARE SUCH POSITIVE INFLUENCES ON OUR LIVES THAT ONE STUDY FOUND THAT AUSTRALIAN OWNERSHIP OF CATS AND DOGS SAVED APPROXIMATELY $3.86 BILLION IN HEALTH EXPENDITURE OVER ONE YEAR.

So what are the benefits for seniors owning a pet?  

Pet therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, is a technique that uses animals to interact with seniors to help improve their health and quality of life overall.

Pet therapy can take many forms, either through owning a pet or participating in dedicated aged care animal programs – such as RSPCAs Community Aged Care Program.

Studies show that just 15 minutes with a dog, cat, or another service animal can increase brain activity and serotonin levels in seniors. Serotonin is known as “the feel-good hormone” and plays a crucial role in bodily function as well as our experiences of positive emotions.

The Mental Benefits 

Research has also shown that owning a pet can have a number of psychological benefits.

For individuals living with dementia who may have difficulty using language, animals can be soothing and can even help these individuals speak and articulate themselves when comfortable.

Pets provide an opportunity for non-verbal communication that can help engage those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

A recent study conducted in Germany3 involved dogs visiting 17 nursing home residents suffering from dementia. The study found the participants who took part in the animal assisted therapy sessions had improved verbal communication function and greater attentiveness after the completion of the program. Changes in personal circumstances, side effects of medication, and lifestyle changes can all result in seniors feeling less connected. But there are plenty of things you can do to keep the blues at bay, including cuddling up to a cute and cuddly pet. A study on the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy measured wellbeing and mood in nursing home residents. The group who had spent time with animals reported feeling ‘enthusiastic’, ‘interested’ and ‘inspired’ significantly more than those who did not spend time with pets.

The Physical Benefits

According to the RSCPA, research has shown that owning a pet can have a number of physical health benefits

/ Increased cardiovascular health (lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides and in men, lower cholesterol)
/ Increased physical activity. Dogs especially help us get out and enjoy the outdoors while getting some regular exercise. They are great motivators and personal trainers, never wanting to miss a training session no matter the weather
/ Fewer visits to the doctor
/ Growing up with a dog (and other pets to a lesser extent) during infancy may help to strengthen the immune system and may reduce the risk of allergies
/ Children who have pets are less likely to miss days of school due to illness
Baker Medical Research Institution in Melbourne conducted a study of 5,741 people over a three-year period. They discovered lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in pet owners than in those who do not own pets, even after accounting for personal factors such as diet, weight and smoking status.

Do you need a hand to care for your four legged friend – our pet friendly services can help

Here at Feros Care we agree that pets are the best by your side, so we want to help you keep them there and their happiest and healthiest self. We also understand that caring for them can be difficult, that’s why we offer a variety of pet services. You can include pet services into your Home Care Package. Read more about them here.  

Our services include:
/ Pet-space cleaning
/ Pet washing
/ Pet walking
/ Pet feeding
/ Pet transport to the vet

 

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