"Man's Best Friend" - Pet Therapy Can Help

"Man's Best Friend" - Pet Therapy Can Help

As we age, we may experience some dramatic changes in our lifestyle. If you are retiring or reducing your work hours outside the home, a certain sense of isolation may set in. Family members may be overwhelmed by their own hectic schedules and may not have as much time to spend with you.  With too much free time on your hands, it is easy to fall into unhealthy patterns, feelings of isolation, and possibly depression.

Staying focused on making healthy choices every day seems like an obvious solution, but it can sometimes be easier said than done. Especially if you live alone, finding the motivation to get out and exercise daily can be a challenge. Sometimes, a new addition to your household is exactly what you need to renew your spirit and energy.

Many research studies have found that there are health benefits of owning a pet, especially for seniors. Having someone to take care of, as well as developing a new, positive relationship can make a difference in your attitude and energy.  Most of your life may have been about taking care of other people, including children and maybe grandchildren, and having a pet can help reacquaint you with that aspect of your identity.  Researchers have even found that daily interaction with animals can lower the risk of heart problems, lower blood pressure and improve levels of relaxation.[1]

Finding a new sense of purpose and someone who depends on you to keep a daily schedule of feeding, walking and grooming, in addition to the companionship of a pet, can reduce feelings of loneliness. Getting out and walking a dog can add to your social interaction with other pet owners, as well.  Of course, the type of pet, any potential allergies, and costs should be considered before making this commitment.

If you or a loved one cannot take on the full-time responsibility of a pet, or you live in a nursing home or facility that does not allow them, you might want to consider the alternative of contacting a pet therapy organization in your area.  These organizations arrange visits with pets to alleviate boredom and loneliness, and to improve the quality of seniors’ lives.

[1] http://www.livestrong.com/article/14593-pet-therapy-for-seniors/