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Seniors and Pets – The Benefits of a Furry Friend

Pet ownership brings benefits to those of all ages. There’s simply nothing like seeing that wagging tail greet you after a long day to make you feel needed and loved, or stroking some soft ears while you relax in the evening for a calming, comforting effect. In fact, a study showed 74% of seniors who own pets report that simply touching their pet made them feel better overall.

Most seniors who own pets were animal lovers and pet owners throughout their lives, but this doesn’t mean if you’ve never had a pet that it’s too late to consider it. The benefits a furry friend can offer to the elderly are important to note and can greatly enhance your life.

Health Benefits of Animals

Pets can help seniors maintain a daily routine, which is a key factor in slowing the aging process. When a senior lives independently, a pet can bring purpose to their lives and offer a form of companionship they might not otherwise have. If social engagement is restricted due to physical limitations, an animal provides seniors with an accessible form of social contact, leading to reduced feelings of loneliness and depression.

A recent study also showed that those seniors who own pets report significantly less stress than non-pet owners during a difficult situation, like dealing with the loss of a spouse. It’s been proven that other health benefits of animals include lowering the blood pressure and reducing heart rate of owners.

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Ollie the Arbor Cat

Pet Therapy for Seniors

Because pets offer so many benefits to the elderly, more and more often animals are being utilized for therapeutic purposes at senior living communities. 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. Therapy animals are used to promote health and healing for seniors of any age range or health condition, whether they are depressed, chronically ill or having ongoing disabilities like Alzheimer’s disease.

Galloway Ridge recognizes the important health benefits of animals to seniors. As reported in The Arbor in Action’s November/December 2014 issue 2, page 3 by Liz Avery, the Resident Spotlight focused on Ollie Tom Cat, a very special “resident”- or possibly a member of the staff! In September 2012, a car from RDU Airport appeared at the entrance to the Arbor with cargo precious indeed. “Ollie” and his owner arrived to begin their lives at Galloway Ridge. For the residents in Pamlico Cove, this cat was love at first sight. Then, shortly after his arrival, we noticed that he was not eating. After the local veterinarian pronounced him sick, Ollie stayed in the “hospital” for almost three weeks. Residents anxiously awaited his return.

Ollie has long since adjusted to his new home and especially loves all the treats! On any given day, you can find him on the porch catching some rays, on a lap purring for some special TLC, or watching the fish. He continues to brighten the days of those in Pamlico Cove, both residents and staff.

Galloway Ridge also welcomes pets in our independent living community. Find out more about the services and amenities offered at Galloway Ridge by clicking here.