At Avamere at Mountain Ridge, we’re happy to accommodate numerous needs of our assisted living and memory care community guests, including pets and animals that any of our guests own. How do pets often benefit seniors directly, both in terms of their health and happiness, and what are some important concepts to keep in mind if you’re a senior or a senior caregiver and a pet is being considered? This two-part blog series will go over both these areas, with part one focused on the value pets offer to seniors.
One major way that pets can help seniors is by providing stress relief and emotional support. In one study examining the effects of therapy dogs on college students’ stress levels, it was found that those who interacted with the therapy dogs had lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels than those who did not interact with the dogs.
Other studies have found similar results in a wide range of populations, including those with dementia, autism spectrum disorder, and more. One reason why dogs in particular may be so effective at reducing stress is that they offer us unconditional love and companionship, which can be very comforting.
Improving mood and preventing depression
Pets can also help improve our moods and help prevent depression. In one study, it was found that dog owners were less likely to experience depression than those who did not own dogs. Other research has also found that seniors who interact with therapy animals show improvements in various measures of mood, including lowered levels of anxiety and loneliness.
One potential reason for these effects is that pets can help us feel more connected to others. They can also help us feel needed and valuable, as we are responsible for their care.
Increasing physical activity
Pets can also encourage us to be more physically active, which is important for seniors as they often become less active with age. One study found that dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week, while those who did not own dogs walked an average of 168 minutes per week.
Another study found that seniors who had pets were more likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines than those who did not have pets. This is likely due to the fact that pets need to be exercised, so owning a pet can help motivate us to get up and move around more.
As you can see, there are several reasons why seniors might consider a pet as a companion. In part two of our series, we’ll go over what to keep in mind if you’ve decided to go this route. For more on this, or to learn about any of our senior living community programs, speak to our caring staff with Avamere at Mountain Ridge today.