Having a pet as a senior may not always be an option due to all the maintenance and care required to keep an animal. But pet therapy is an alternative that can provide seniors with heartwarming moments with furry friends.
Pet therapy can help seniors cope with stress, expression, and health issues and help develop healthy relationships overall. Therapy animals, not to be confused with service dogs or emotional support animals, are raised and taught to bring comfort and affection to people in stressful situations.
Visits from animals can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, alleviate loneliness, and lower blood pressure.
What is Pet Therapy?
Pet therapy involves using animals to assist people in coping with and recovering from certain physical and mental health conditions or as a means to adjust to a new stage of life, as is common with seniors.
Pet therapy can look different depending on whether the animals are trained to help with comfort, warn users of danger, or even help an individual when in need. Pet therapy falls under supplementary or alternative therapy and should supplement, not replace, existing therapy treatments.
Overall, pet therapy aims to ease or aid people in coping with life or symptoms of various conditions whenever practical.
Which Pets Are Used for Pet Therapy?
Although dogs are the most common therapy pets, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and horses are all suitable. These types of pets can be well-trained, have pleasant temperaments, and enjoy being around people. Sometimes, all it takes is a small, quiet, warm creature to cuddle and play with.
Dogs for Pet Therapy
Studies have shown that dogs can help calm and relax people, and therapy dogs are proof of this. Dogs are an excellent choice for individuals suffering from depression, loneliness, or needing more physical activity. Although larger breeds like Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are used frequently as therapy dogs, other types can also make effective therapy pets.
Horses for Pet Therapy
Therapy horses are wonderful companion animals that promote mental wellness through therapeutic equine-assisted therapy methods. While therapy horses may not be found in senior living facilities or schools, that doesn’t mean a field trip to them cannot be arranged.
Cats for Pet Therapy
Cats are notorious for cuddles. Like dogs, cats are simple animals to bring inside, and they can make wonderful therapy animals for people who might be afraid of dogs or are lonely.
A good therapy cat can adapt to new situations and environments, be friendly, calm, and people-oriented, and manage travel well.
The Difference Between a Therapy & Emotional Support Animals
Training and the people the pet assists are the differences between a therapy animal and an emotional support animal. An emotional support animal is more likely to help just its owner, while a therapy animal is trained to visit public locations and help numerous people.
Pets used in therapy must pass an evaluation that tests for skills suitable for therapy environments and can be brought into those environments to work.
While not explicitly trained to interact with others, an emotional support animal offers its owner therapeutic benefits, such as companionship.
Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors
- Decreases loneliness and boredom
- Getting more exercise, enjoying more company, and reducing loneliness
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases anxiety, depression, and pain
- Better heart health
- Help with developing a more resilient immune system
- Helps with heightened abilities to form social connections
Getting in Touch
To meet seniors’ unique needs and lifestyles, Bentley Commons at Paragon Village provides a variety of activities, including pet therapy. In addition to regularly scheduled events and activities, Bentley Commons at Paragon Village can offer a close-knit community for those in a similar stage of life. To find out more about our amenities and services, get in touch with us right away.