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woman holding small dog

The Incredible Health Benefits of Pet Therapy in Seniors

Pets are more than just fun and adorable friends. 

Research shows significant social, emotional, and overall health benefits for seniors who have a furry pal by their side.

Whether the senior owns a pet, visits with a pet, or participates in animal-assisted therapy, each type of relationship can bring numerous benefits to their health and wellbeing.

Let’s explore the types of pet therapy, the health benefits, and how a pet-friendly senior living community can be the perfect home for your loved one.

What is Pet Therapy?

“Pet therapy” is more of an umbrella term for both animal-assisted therapy and other types of animal-assisted activities.

These types of activities are increasing in popularity as health professionals and families alike begin to witness the benefits.

What’s the Difference Between Animal-Assisted Therapy vs. Activities?

Animal-assisted therapy is more structured, and involves animals for specific goals and purposes as part of recovery or coping programs. These goals might include improving movement, speech, or social skills.

Animal-assisted activities are more informal, such as owning a pet or having a pet visit assisted living or nursing home residents for comfort and fun.

How Does Pet Therapy Help Seniors?

Many seniors already engage in pet therapy daily, because they have a beloved pet at home. Around 65% of households in the U.S. have at least one furry friend.

Pet therapy can help with a range of health problems, both physical and mental. While more research is needed in the field, experts say the initial findings are promising and exciting.

The following are some of the strongest links and outcomes of pet therapy so far.

Pets Improve Heart Health

Researchers have found a link between pets and better cardiovascular health.

Pet ownership is believed to contribute to a lower heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and a faster recovery during mental stress.

The American Heart Association also has said that owning pets, and dogs in particular, might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

These outcomes are a result of both the reduced stress that comes with having a comforting pet, as well as the physical exercise involved in walking a dog.

Pet Therapy Soothes Depression and Anxiety

While pet therapy can help with all age groups, experts have found it’s especially effective in helping seniors with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It also appears to be particularly effective for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those struggling with a mental illness or those hospitalized with heart failure.

Caring for a pet or interacting with animals can sustain quality of life and help seniors through challenging life transitions, such as a move or development of an illness.

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are even specially trained as mental health companions.

Pets Provide Companionship and Support

Animal therapy can reduce loneliness in seniors by providing a source of support and comfort. They also can improve mental stimulation and provide meaning.

Petting, brushing, feeding, and talking to a pet can help seniors feel needed and engaged.

Pets also can help foster a sense of community, both by being a comfort themselves, as well as leading to social interaction with others. 

This has been found to be especially true for those who walk their dogs.

Pets Boost Physical Activity

While the most common therapy pets are dogs and cats, some types of animal-assisted therapy also involve horses, livestock, or other pets of a senior’s choosing.

In research involving physical activity, dog owners are the most physically active due to the responsibility to walk a dog.

Staying active and exercising regularly provides physical, mental, and emotional benefits to seniors. It can provide a purpose and improve quality of life.

How to Find a Senior Living Community That Welcomes Pets

As we age, it’s more difficult to care for a pet on our own — but we still deserve the benefits of having a beloved pet companion. 

While pets can help preserve quality of life and provide multiple health benefits, there may come a time when moving to an assisted living community is necessary for a loved one.

In this case, finding a community that loves and accepts pets is essential.

The Kensington White Plains Invites Pets into Our Community

The Kensington White Plains is an enhanced assisted living and memory care community that not only offers the health benefits of pet therapy on a regular basis, but also welcomes beloved family pets into the community.

We understand and honor that pets are an integral part of your family, and can contribute to healthier, happier lives.

Our life enrichment activities and on-site rehabilitation and therapy programs involve pet therapy regularly, and we invite pets into all neighborhoods of the community.

Here at The Kensington White Plains, we have our very own “house pet” for residents to share and enjoy.

Ensure a Smooth Transition to our Community with Pet Therapy

The Kensington understands how stressful relocating can be, especially for seniors leaving behind a beloved family home and neighborhood.

We believe pets can help new residents feel at home with us faster, and keep your loved ones happy and comforted.

Reach out to our team today to learn more about how we can make the transition to our community smooth and successful with the health benefits of pet therapy.

We encourage families to bring along their pets when they move to The Kensington. Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own — and this includes your furry friends.

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