Finding little sources of comfort, calm, and joy is deeply important for seniors as they navigate the challenges and changes that come with older age.
While everyone finds peace and calm in different places, a wonderful avenue worth exploring is the therapeutic power that time spent with animals can have. Animal Assisted Therapy is a unique type of therapy that can be deeply enriching and beneficial for seniors in any condition, and can be a fun and calming way to work towards a better state of wellbeing.
What is Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy, also known as Pet Therapy, is a unique form of therapy that uses the calming effect of animals in a purposeful and directed way as a means of treatment. The overarching goal of Animal Assisted Therapy is to help seniors experience a better quality of life, emotionally, socially, psychologically, and cognitively.
How Animals Can Help
Time spent with animals has been seen to be truly beneficial for many seniors in ways that can work to improve both mental and physical health. Studies have shown that even a short amount of time spent interacting or bonding with an animal can instantly improve mood and lower blood pressure.
Among some of the many benefits that have been associated with spending some time with animals are:
- Decreases Anxiety and Stress
- Decreases Feelings of Isolation
- Improves Motor Skills or Mobility, from petting or walking animals
- Increases Levels of Engagement, drawing reserved individuals out of their shells
- Lessens Symptoms of Depression
- Lowers Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
- Provides a Sense of Comfort and Calm
- Releases Oxytocin, which has a calming effect
- Relieves Boredom
Socializing with Animals
An unfortunate reality for many seniors is that they come to feel more isolated or have less socialization in older age. While they may not be human, animals can offer a valuable opportunity for seniors to connect and socialize, during which they can feel engaged and stimulated. Integrating Animal Assisted Therapy or just some time spent with a pet into their routines can not only be beneficial to seniors in terms of minimizing stress and bettering mood, but can also be a valuable social opportunity that can help to supplement time spent with other people.
Integrating Animal Assisted Therapy
As more and more information becomes available about the positive outcomes that time spent with animals can have, Animal Assisted Therapy itself becomes more readily and easily accessible in all areas. A quick internet search can bring up results related to providers of Animal Assisted Therapy, and time spent with specially trained therapy animals can be scheduled. If something as structured as Animal Assisted Therapy doesn’t quite feel like the right fit, just spending time with a friend’s pet, or considering the possibility of getting a pet for yourself or your loved one are also options. If your loved one has an interest in animals, they could benefit from accessing and integrating some time spent in the company of some furry friends.