An elderly person paired with an appropriate pet can be a winning combination.
“Humans and animals need love, companionship and activity,” said Kit Darling, an infection control coordinator at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
“The elderly who are in assisted living and long term care facilities enjoy visits from pets,” Darling added, who also volunteers with Aggieland Pets With A Purpose (APWAP).
“Animal assisted therapy organizations such as APWAP provide visits. It is a very rewarding experience to see a person smile and enjoy time with Dexter and Daschle, my pet dachshunds. Their presence causes residents to talk about pets they once had. One lady gets so excited when Dexter visits; she will invite him to “sit on Grandma’s lap.”
Just as elderly in assisted living desire the companionship of animals, seniors living independently can benefit from a daily routine that includes a pet.
Darling explained that pets provide companionship, decrease loneliness, accept you as you are and provide a sense of being needed. Pets can give the elderly a different outlook because they live in the moment and help seniors do likewise. They can bring laughter into one’s life and increase socialization.
When walking the dog you meet other people in the neighborhood and this encourages conversation. Additionally, recent studies have indicated that positive interaction with pets helps seniors overcome depression and lowers blood pressure/cholesterol levels.
“Pets keep seniors active both physically and mentally,” Darling said. “Walking the dog or going outside with the dog will increase one’s activity. Fresh air and sunshine are good for both. Stroking or brushing the animal is good exercise.”