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Three Ways Seniors Benefit from Pet Therapy

Our senior population is aging, facing unique combinations of mental, physical and emotional issues. Pets not only offer companionship to seniors, but they also have shown to increase senior health in a number of ways. According to the American Animal Health Association, here are three ways seniors benefit from pet therapy:

1. Pets help fight depression.

Depression co-exists in the presence of other diagnosed illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Because many older adults face these health problems coupled by social and economic difficulties, seniors can become withdrawn and get depressed. Having a furry friend to care for helps seniors establish a daily routine--getting woken up by their pet for food or walks--helps lessen the effects of depression.

2. Pets Promote Better Health

Seniors living independently with pets have better physical health than those living without. Studies show that owning a pet, such as a dog, can lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones simply by visiting the dog park or playing fetch. Also, petting, hugging, and cuddling with animals provides a great deal of comfort by boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

3. Pets Help Encourage Social Interactions

With advancing age, it is inevitable for seniors to lose friendships and find it more difficult to cultivate new relationships. Animals can play a significant role in the sociability of the elderly as they can gently encourage humans to get more social interactions. People are more likely to spark conversation with seniors when they are out with their pets or waiting to see the vet. Talking about their pets helps break the ice and creates easy conversation starters for seniors to engage in.

The bottom line is: pet therapy is a great way to increase the quality of life for seniors!

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