Charlotte adds, “It’s not just PAT animals that benefit our residents. One of our colleagues often brings her dog in, and relatives will also bring theirs. We’ve had a variety of animals, from ordinary pets like guinea pigs, rabbits and kittens, to more bizarre creatures like spiders, cockroaches, snakes, and even giant snails. All have different textured skin which can make it a sensory experience for our residents, which is always important for people living with dementia. For this activity we use a great organization called, ZooLab, who have a whole menagerie to choose from!
“We don’t have animals around just because they are therapy pets – all animals are therapy. “
The benefits of pets for older people
Pets can make a huge difference to older people's lives. Research has found that pet owners are less likely to feel lonely, recover from illness faster and one study showed that even 15 minutes with an animal can increase serotonin and drop stress levels.
Improved social interaction
There are a number of benefits for owning a pet for older people including the perks of interacting and engaging with their pet which can help provide an older person with a sense of purpose by having something to care for, whilst also providing companionship. In sheltered housing pets can help spark conversations between residents, family, friends and staff.
Improving quality of life
Pets also create an opportunity for socialising and getting out in the fresh air, which in turn can increase confidence and self-esteem, whilst also reducing the risk of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness, which helps to improve quality of life.
Health benefits of owning a pet
Pets can help to increase mobility in older people and increase the amount of exercise that is required in caring for an animal, which can in turn help them to maintain a healthy weight. Looking after a pet has also been shown to lower blood pressure and help stimulate the mind and memory.
Sense of purpose
Having responsibility for an animal that an older person can feed, play and exercise with can provide a sense of purpose. Having a pet gives them an animal to keep them occupied and active.
Having a routine
Pets help to have a routine in the day, knowing that there is an animal that needs their care can help to establish a list of things they need to do in order to look after their pet, which is beneficial for brain health.
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