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The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors

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Those of us who own pets know they make us happy. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also make us healthy, or healthier.

That helps explain the increasing use of animals—dogs and cats mostly, but also birds, bunnies and even llamas—in settings ranging from hospitals and schools to senior living communities.

The use of pets in medical settings actually dates back more than 150 years, but it was only in the late 1970s that researchers started to uncover the scientific underpinnings for that bond.

One of the earliest studies, published in 1980, found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn't. Another early study found that petting one's own dog could reduce blood pressure.

Pet therapy for seniors, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, is a technique that uses animals to interact with seniors for numerous reasons to help improve their quality of life. Studies show that just fifteen minutes spent bonding with an animal promotes hormonal changes within the brain. Stress levels drop as the brain produces serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone), along with prolactin and oxytocin. This is why therapy animals are good companions for seniors, because they offer so many amazing health benefits.

Studies show that seniors who are active and always around others, or who own a pet, decline in health far less rapidly than isolated or depressed seniors.

Pet Therapy at Benchmark

  • We schedule regular visits from pet therapy groups at our assisted living and Alzheimer's memory care communities.
  • Animals in assisted living and Alzheimer's memory care provide a source of comfort and are a focus of our attention.
  • Pets bring out our nurturing instinct. They also make us feel safe and unconditionally accepted.
  • Research has shown that pet therapy can reduce pain symptoms, depression, anxiety and stress.
  • Being around animals makes people feel better, healthier, and happier.

Benchmark Senior Living is proud to be a pet-friendly senior living company. Find a community and learn more.

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Jayne Sallerson is a warm, enthusiastic and compassionate executive with a heart for working with seniors. Jayne has been in senior care for more than 20 years and she says, “I still love what I do.” At Benchmark Senior Living, Jayne now serves as Executive Vice President. A native of New England, Jayne loves to travel, meet new people, and hang out with her favorite pug, Henry.
Jayne started this blog as a way to share the many questions she and her team get every day with other people looking for answers.