Animals—Companions and Healers

Animals can have a special healing effect on people of all ages. While health care is typically viewed as a combination of diagnostics, procedures, and medications offered in a medical setting, animals are becoming more and more of a popular, yet unconventional alternative. In fact, research actually shows that animals have the unique ability to heal in ways different than traditional medicine.

Animal-assisted therapy and visiting animal programs are popular in hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes across the country. Whether a senior is bedridden or handicapped, struggling with dementia symptoms or undergoing intensive rehabilitation, programs are available that draw on the kind, gentle nature of animals as a source of healing. Ever notice that many doctor offices have fish tanks in their waiting rooms? Research indicates that watching fish, turtles or other amphibians swim can help patients relax.

Animals are also excellent long-term companions. They provide the kindness, support and companionship that the elderly require to live a quality lifestyle. Animals also live in the moment which can greatly influence a senior who oftentimes worries about what the future might bring. During a time when a senior may feel like they depend on everyone and no one depends on them, a pet fills that void.

There are many health benefits for senior pet owners…

  • Relieves seniors of the loneliness associated with aging
  • Lowers blood pressure and reduce stress
  • Increases social interaction and encourages physical activity
  • Stimulates the mind and encourages a healthy memory
  • Improves mood, reduces feelings like depression and anxiety
  • Promotes a daily routine and healthy behaviors
  • Provides a sense of purpose and responsibility
  • Presents a senior with a committed companion and friend
  • Offers the unconditional love and affection that most seniors crave

In addition to these benefits, studies suggest that senior pet owners make fewer visits to the doctor and are more active, social and feel a greater sense of security. If you or a loved one is interested in an animal companion, do the necessary research. The decision to own a pet is not one to take lightly. Consider your lifestyle including how much time you have to attribute to your pet, as well as what type best fits your daily routine.

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