Pets and elderly individuals may be perfect for each other. Since as early as the 1700s, pets have been used to care for convalescents after World War II by the American Red Cross. Today, pets are still used in physically and mentally therapeutic treatments. There are three significant benefits of pets for the elderly.
- Mental Health.
- Physical Health.
Pet therapy for the elderly is generally referred to as animal assisted therapy, or AAT. It allows for seniors to use fine motor skills by caring for the animal. Walking, petting, grooming, feeding, and generally being affectionate towards the animal provides the senior with both a bonding opportunity, and the chance to practice fine motor skills, which begin to get more difficult as we age. In general, dogs and cats are the most popular animal in animal assisted therapy for seniors. AAT is also used in treating people with mental and physical disabilities. For those therapy programs, horses and dolphins are often used.
The Journal of Gerontology has concluded that 30 minutes of AAT can successfully diminish loneliness among patients. In nursing homes and among the elderly, this is incredibly important because those individuals rarely have the chance to enjoy close physical contact. Providing pets for elderly individuals allows bonding. It encourages the elderly to reminisce, discuss, and express their emotions around the experience. This is an important activity to help strengthen mental health.
Pets for seniors can also have a strong impact on physical health. Scientific studies have concluded that through physical contact with pets, individuals significantly lower their blood pressure, and therefore their risk for a heart attack. Stress is also relieved through physical contact for animals. As most people are likely to realize, it is hard to be upset around a puppy or a kitten.
When pets and elderly patients come together, it is clear that verifiable physical, mental, and therapeutic benefits occur. Consider AAT, or a pet, for an elderly individual in your life in need of some very natural medicine.