I have recently read many articles about the benefits of using animals in therapy for children, but animals and the elderly can have a special bond.
When you pet a soft, warm cat or play fetch with a dog whose tail won’t stop wagging, you relax and your heart feels a little warmer. Scientists noticed the same thing, and they’ve started to explore the complex way animals affect human emotions and physiology. Longstanding studies have shown that owning and handling animals significantly benefits health, and not just for the young. In fact, pets may help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May 1999 demonstrated that independently living seniors who had pets tended to have better physical health and mental wellbeing than those who didn’t. They were more active, coped better with stress, and had better overall health. A 1997 study showed that elderly pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure overall than their contemporaries without pets.
Why? First of all, pets need walking, feeding, grooming, fresh water and fresh kitty litter, and they encourage lots of playing and petting. All of these activities require some action from owners. Any activity can benefit the cardiovascular system and help keep joints limber and flexible.
Consistently performing this kind of minor exercise can keep pet owners able to carry out the normal activities of daily living. Pets may also aid seniors simply by providing some physical contact. Studies have shown that when people pet animals, their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature decrease.
Full story of pets helping seniors health at El Paso Times