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Everything to Know About Pet Therapy in Assisted Living

Pet lovers can all agree that furry friends have a positive impact on their life. Pet therapy is widely used to contribute to social, emotional and overall well-being for seniors. 

If you or a loved one are considering the move to an assisted living community, you may wonder about moving a pet into assisted living with them. Many communities understand this and provide the ability for residents to bring their pets – but also have regular pet therapy sessions for those who still want that time with a furry companion, without the full-time commitment to care for them.

Today’s assisted living communities typically have periodic pet therapy, or a community pet that permanently resides on campus to provide residents with smiles, boosted moods and a positive environment.

Read our guide to find out how an independent living, assisted living, and memory care community like ours incorporates pet therapy into their neighborhoods.

What is Pet Therapy?

“Pet therapy” is a term that encompasses both animal-assisted therapy and other types of animal-assisted activities.

As the benefits in mental, physical, and social health become more apparent, this type of therapy is growing in popularity.

How Does an Animal Assisted Activity Differ from Animal Therapy?

Animal assisted therapy involves animals in efforts that are geared towards a specific goal – such as improving movement, speech or social skills. A more structured visitation such as this can be used for individuals in a specific mode of recovery or healing.

Animal assisted activities are less formal, and are instances such as a pet visiting a senior living community for comfort and to provide joy.

The Impact of Pet Therapy on Seniors

Many seniors already incorporate pet therapy into their daily life, due to already having a pet at home. Roughly 65% of households in the U.S. have at least a single furry companion.

Pet therapy can help with a range of health problems. Although there is still more research to be had, the findings we have so far from experts is all the more promising.

The following are some of the well known outcomes of pet therapy that we can reveal so far.

Emotional Benefits in Seniors: Companionship & Support

Pet therapy is a method that positively impacts all age groups, but experts have found it’s especially effective in relieving seniors with symptoms of irritability, agitation, depression and anxiety.

In addition, for those with an underlying condition such as dementia or Alzhiemer’s disease, mental illness, or hospitalization due to a heart condition or injury, it is even more effective.

Specially trained animals that are certified in assisting as mental health companions are referred to as emotional support animals (ESAs).

Pet therapy for seniors provides support and a source of comfort, which ultimately reduces loneliness and improves mental stimulation.

Whether it’s a fluffy dog, an energetic bird, a soft cuddly cat, or even a bright fish aquarium, the benefits of having a pet for one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are numerous. 

Pet therapy brings great benefits to all—companionship, unconditional love and fun. Pets do not judge, and they are not critical. Their friendliness and non-threatening interaction can soothe seniors with dementia. This, in turn, can lead seniors to be more socially interactive, when sometimes they may not be comfortable doing so in settings with other adults.

Engaging in petting, feeding, brushing and talking to a pet helps seniors feel needed. Pets allow individuals to feel a sense of community, both by being a comfort themselves, as well as leading to social interaction with others. 

Physical Benefits in Seniors

Most commonly, you will see cats and dogs involved in pet therapy. However, other types of animal-assisted therapy have been known to involve horses or other pets!

Researchers have even discovered a powerful link between pets and improved cardiovascular health. 

Pet ownership is believed to contribute to a lower heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and a faster recovery during mental stress. The American Heart Association also has said that owning pets might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Nutrition can even be boosted through pet therapy. A study found that after visitation  with an animal, residents in a community ate more and actually began gradually gaining healthy weight. These residents actually ended up requiring fewer nutritional supplements.

These outcomes are a result of both the reduced stress that comes with having a comforting pet, as well as the physical exercise involved in walking a dog. Fine motor skills are also activated through petting and brushing.

Staying active and exercising regularly leads to an improved quality of life and well-being physically, mentally and emotionally.

Kensington Park Senior Living Community — A Place For Your Loved One and Their Beloved Pet

Kensington Park Senior Living is a premier independent living, assisted living, and memory care community for seniors.

We are a pet-friendly community and gladly welcome pets into our residents’ homes. 

In addition to welcoming pets, we offer many other amenities for our residents, including all-day dining, life enrichment activities, and physical rehabilitation services on-site, so our residents can focus on their wellness.

We regularly have pets around our community to bring smiles and fun to the Kensington Park family.

At Kensington Park, we Promise to love to care for your family (and pet) as we would our own. 

If you’re considering moving your loved one into assisted living and have more questions regarding their pet, please contact us to learn more about our pet policy.

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