In addition to the litany of different physical health problems that ail individuals as they age, loneliness and depression can also play a major role. For the most part, family members have to play a role in preventing that by making sure that they can find time in their day to visit aging relatives, but pets might also be able to help. According to a study by the Journal of Gerontology, just 30 minutes of Animal Assisted Therapy lowered patient loneliness by a statistical degree. This means that pet therapy for the elderly can be a great resource for families who are worried about the quality of life of older loved ones.
Some families might be concerned that bringing a pet into the picture might cause an elderly individual to get sick, either because of allergies or germs that come with the animal. However, all AAT pets have vaccinations and training before getting involved with patients. This means that pets for elderly individuals will only have a positive impact.
While pet therapy for the elderly can take place just about anywhere, it is most commonly used in nursing homes where patients are present for long term stays. Though some facilities work hard to provide a community for patients that might be sad to be away from their family, loneliness remains a common part of many nursing homes. In many cases, pets for seniors there can help remedy that problem and make the environment more positive overall.
The perception might be that pet therapy for the elderly is only used to combat loneliness and depression, but it does actually have physical benefits. Studies have shown that physical contact between pets and the elderly has the ability to significantly lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack. As a result, the benefits of pets for the elderly are not solely based on companionship.
Animal Assisted Therapy might be most commonly used with the elderly, but it can also help children. Many doctors have reported that both the young and old have seen improved cognitive skills after AAT. This means that pet therapy does not solely have to be reserved for the elderly who need a bit of help maintaining their health.
In reality, AAT might seem unconventional, and many people are likely to be hesitant to give it a try at all. However, the many possible benefits, for individuals both young and old, make it a great option for families who are looking for alternative ways to help their loved ones reach a higher quality of life.