Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. Studies show that people who have a pet are healthier and live longer than those without a pet.

With the increase evidence-based research that is reported, there is an increase use of animals—dogs and cats mostly, but also birds, and rabbits—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 reasonings for the bond between people and animals.

One of the earliest studies, published in 1980, found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who did not. Another early study found that petting your dog could reduce blood pressure.

Animal Assisted Therapy for seniors uses animals to interact with seniors to help improve their quality of life. Studies show that just fifteen minutes spent bonding with an animal promotes changes within the brain. These changes include production of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. These hormones are responsible for reducing stress.

There are some findings that pet therapy in dementia patients, can help reduce anxiety and give a feeling of familiarity.

Other benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy include:

  • Research has shown that pet therapy can reduce pain symptoms, depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Animals in assisted living and Alzheimer’s memory care provide a source of comfort and familiarity.
  • Pets stimulate our natural nurturing instinct. They also make us feel safe and unconditionally accepted.

Studies show that seniors who are remain active, are social, or who own a pet, decline in health far less rapidly than isolated or depressed seniors. Creating a pet therapy program in senior living communities is a great way to promote activity and decrease isolation.

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