Pet therapy can take many forms, but they all revolve around one central idea: interaction with a friendly animal that promotes a positive impact on mental health. Studies show that pets can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and several therapists have noted that having a pet present during therapy sessions can help patients be more open and comfortable when speaking about their lives. While some people aren’t ready to take care of a full-time emotional support or therapy animal – or their current living space doesn’t allow pets – many therapists and organizations offer regular visits with dogs, cats, or other animals for those without a pet of their own. Brightwater Senior Living has compiled a list of some of the benefits of pet therapy.
It might sound simple and/or obvious, but pets can go a long way towards helping you feel less lonely – in some cases, even more so than another person would. Research has shown that nine of ten people who got a pet in order to alleviate their loneliness reported that they did indeed feel less lonely with a furry friend around. If you don’t have the capacity to care for a pet 24/7, that’s no problem. These studies show that merely being around an animal for a short time can produce the same benefits. Visiting a friend’s pet or attending pet therapy sessions through a doctor’s office or nonprofit organization can have just as much of a positive impact as owning your own pet.
Spending time with an animal can go further than just making you feel less lonely – it can actually directly alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Depression is often linked to feelings of loneliness, and owning a pet or having regular visits with an animal can help provide much-needed companionship. Petting or stroking an animal like a dog or cat can also improve your mood by increasing your oxytocin levels and releasing endorphins. Organizations like Pet Partners make it their mission to help people suffering from depression by introducing them to a trained therapy animal for a visitation session. If you live in a senior living community or somewhere where pets aren’t allowed, these organizations can be a great option to meet up with a furry friend.
Providing a Daily Routine
While owning a pet is a lot of work, the work itself can be beneficial. Many people thrive when they have a set routine and pets need it. Your days will become more active and you may end up positively affecting your health by taking your dog on daily walks or cleaning up after caged pets like rabbits or guinea pigs. It may be a good idea to start with an older pet, like a senior dog or cat. These older animals generally have less energy than a puppy or kitten and are often already house trained or litter trained. In fact, some organizations like North Shore Animal League have programs dedicated to matching older adults with senior animals. Of course, not everyone is ready for the responsibility of owning a pet. In that case, it might be better to arrange regular visitations with a therapy animal.
We hope we were able to shed some light on the positives of owning a pet or visiting a therapy animal. For more suggestions and information about senior living, visit Brightwater’s blog.