While pet therapy may be an unfamiliar term for you, it's been rising in popularity. That's because it's quite an effective form of therapy, especially for seniors. Here at My Living Choice, we take the pet-friendliness of the senior living community into consideration during vetting. Pets are an indispensable part of many people's lives, and we also acknowledge the impact of this form of treatment. Therefore, the ideal senior living community should bring pets in to visit if the residents do not have their own pets.

 

What Is Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy is as simple as the name suggests. Regularly playing with animals has a surprising number of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

For physical benefits, pets can keep a senior more mobile just from normal activities like petting and brushing. There are also extra activities that are fun, like fetch and going on walks, which means the senior will be given more incentive to exercise. And finally, bonding with a pet can lower your blood pressure due to the simple loving and low-pressure nature of the relationship.

As for emotional and mental benefits, if they are in a senior living community with pet handlers, they will benefit from extra socializing. They will also learn how to plan and be flexible from feeding their pet at scheduled times and reacting to the pet's spontaneous behavior. And finally, if the senior is meeting new pets, they will receive more memory stimulation by comparing new pets with previous pets.

 

Where the Pets Come From

You might be wondering where the "visitor" pets in a senior living community come from and if/how they are screened. Since pet therapy has boomed in popularity in recent years, arranging pet visits and pet therapy programs has become even easier. As is often the case, kind-hearted pet owners with well-trained pets (usually dogs) volunteer to lend their pets through a program – the most common ones being sponsored by the humane society, a non-profit organization, or a local pet store. Any decent senior living community will have a thorough screening process to put your mind at ease.

 

Dogs in Pet Therapy

There are some criteria that a senior living community will use to screen pets. First of all, when it comes to dogs, the question of reactivity comes up. How reactive is the dog to its environment? The majority of dogs are comfortable in their home but can easily get overwhelmed in unfamiliar settings. Then, they may start to bark and jump on people. Dogs used in pet therapy in a senior living community shouldn't behave this way.

Next, dogs in pet therapy should get along well with everyone. Men, women, kids, etc., can all enjoy being around the dogs in a senior living community.

And finally, a dog's temperament is also important. The dog needs to have a calm disposition since a boisterous dog jumping around and causing trouble could disturb residents.

 

What About Cats?

Cats tend to be less popular options in pet therapy due to their aloof demeanor. But still, some people are cat people, and this is a benefit, not a drawback! But what are the best cats in pet therapy? Manx cats tend to be a good option since they are usually more loyal. But, being able to regularly meet with the same Manx cat is important in order for that bond of loyalty to form. And to conclude, cats usually require less maintenance, making pet ownership even more accessible, which is important for the senior demographic.

 

What About Other Pets?

Of course, there are other pet options besides dogs, cats, and farm animals, but their benefits in pet therapy are considerably less. However, that doesn't mean that they aren't worth considering. If low maintenance is important to you or your senior loved one, then birds and fish make decent options. They will create a more pleasant atmosphere, and the owner can still have an emotional connection to them.

 

Why Pet Therapy Is Important

The activities of daily living (ADLs) are of great importance. Key ADLs include staying mobile, eating a healthy diet, and communicating. These things have even more importance as you get older, so you'll want to be sure that you're meeting these goals. It can be the difference between falling into lethargy or living a satisfying and well-rounded life. We've observed that residents in every senior living community cheer up right away when one of their favorite pet owners drops off their pooch. The emotional connection is immediate, and the physical affection that dogs bring is immensely valuable.

In fact, a large part of what makes us feel healthy and in tip-top shape each day is that feeling of connectedness. As it begins to go away, we can easily fall into feelings of melancholy. So, receiving a visit from a sweet and lovable animal enhances the connection between the person and the pet, as well as between all the other residents who bond with the adorable pet. This important bonding process should be at the core of any senior living community group activities. Whether it be baking, shuffleboard, gardening, or bocce ball. The main difference with pet therapy, though, is that the key focus is a living and breathing being!

 

The Connection With Nature

Unfortunately, not every senior living community places its focus on family values and quality. Some focus more on the business side of things, and they'll often set up in a location in an industrial neighborhood or a place without many trees and greenery. The best pet-friendly senior living community should have walking paths and green space for your pets to walk. Also, animals are a perfect fit for such settings. After all, pets and nature go hand in hand with the wilderness and the beauty that entails. 

Why is it that so many of the best paintings are composed of beautiful landscapes? Why do humans love to hike and camp whenever they get the chance to leave the city? The scientific benefits of being in nature explain this – by connecting with nature, your mind is relieved of stress and releases endorphins, making for a more healthy and happy outlook on life.