Dogs Can Be The Best Friend For A Senior’s Health
Animal therapy has become recognized as an alternative method in helping seniors remain healthy mentally and physically. In fact, a study published in the journal Pain Medicine found that therapy dogs helped to significantly reduce pain and emotional distress in individuals battling chronic pain. Moderate exercise and eating right are obviously keys to a senior’s ongoing well being, but having a four-pawed companion can have tremendous health benefits as well.
Dog Walking Takes Steps Toward Better Health
On the physical side, having a dog provides a mandatory excuse for a senior to get outside and walk. There’s also the physical movement of feeding and providing water everyday. These activities all contribute to lower blood pressure and fewer occurrences of chronic health conditions like obesity.
In fact, a University of Missouri study showed that walking a dog regularly can lead to a lower body mass index. This can positively contribute to overall health and help prevent conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Seniors in the study who walked their dog also reported fewer doctor visits.
Emotionally, for a single senior, whether home alone or in an assisted-living facility, a dog provides heart-felt companionship to battle loneliness, and gives the senior a purposeful reason to get up and moving every day. Dog-walking also has social benefits. Seniors who walk dogs have an easy way to connect with other pet lovers who cross their path.
Pets Help Maintain The Brain
Memory loss and cognitive health can be a side effect of aging. However, new research has shown that having a pet in the twilight years can spur extended brain strength. These daily routines of pet ownership help keep a senior’s brain focused and even improve memory as we age, according to Dr. Penny B. Donnenfeld. “I’ve seen those with memory loss interact with an animal and regain access to memories from long ago,” the psychologist explains. “Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than their physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”
Assisted Living Pet Friendly Places
Recognizing the correlation between pet ownership and good health, senior assisted-living communities are now allowing and encouraging ownership. And while on top of paying rent, pets can be another financial commitment, there are federal aid programs like Medicare that minimize health care and prescription costs. Those savings can be used by seniors on a budget to feed and support their furry friends. For those seniors who don’t want to own a pet, many facilities and nursing homes have created programs where rescue organizations bring in dogs during the week for resident interaction during so-called “pet therapy” sessions. Staffs often report positive changes in mood and behavior of the folks during and after these visits.
Caring and feeding of a dog can have rich results on a senior’s physical and mental health. Walking a dog literally keeps a senior on his or her toes, and takes a person’s mind off pain or loneliness. Dogs remain man’s best friend and maybe even more so in a person’s twilight years.