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Benefits of Animals in Assisted Living Facilities

By Jan Bolder - February 24, 2014

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It's pretty hard to resist the wide eyes of a kitten or the fluffy head of a dog burrowing under your hand, and having trained animals in assisted living facilities has shown to have many positive effects on a senior's health.

Health Care Benefits

Seniors who either have pets with them or get visits from pets make fewer doctor visits than seniors who don't. This is especially true for smaller health issues, like nagging colds or minor aches and pains.

 

  • Emotional Stability: Seniors with pets tend to be less stressed and anxious than seniors who don't. A possible reason for this is animals are non-judgemental "listeners" who let seniors speak their minds freely, and only ask for a pat on the head in return. However, animals do come with their own food and exercise needs, which may cause seniors a bit of stress.
  • Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: A study by the University of Buffalo showed that while ACE inhibitors are effective at treating hypertension, dogs and cats are better.
  • Longer Life Expectancy: Did you know that having a pet with you at an assisted living facility can add years to your life? Seniors with heart conditions end up living longer than seniors without pets, and with a better quality of life, too. They also showed fewer signs of heart disease than pet-less seniors, while cat-less seniors are up 40% more likely to die of heart disease than their feline-toting counterparts.
  • Stressful Situations: When seniors enter into antsy experiences, they exhibit the signs of calmness—lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, slower rate of breathing, dryer palms—much more readily if their pet is with them. And when it comes to depression, pets are as good as a talk session on the couch.
  • Overall Health: Instead of looking at individual signs of feeling better, seniors with pets in assisted living facilities just do better overall in both mental and physical health.
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    Top Pet Choices

    Now that it's firmly established pets have a lot more to them than just sloppy kisses and furry handshakes, what are seniors' top choices when it comes to choosing an animal? Dogs are the top choice, as man's best friend offers comfort, stability, dependability, and trustworthiness. But cats are a popular option as well, as their independence and self-reliance make them easy animals to have around and care for.

    Other popular choices for assisted living facilities include birds, bunnies, hamsters and fish—all small animals that are easy to care for and provide a soothing presence that keeps seniors calm and relaxed.


    Animal Visits

    Sometimes, assisted living facilities don't allow permanent pets for hygienic or allergy reasons, but will make concessions for small visits. There are a number of organizations, such as The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, which match seniors and animals to maximize the beneficial effects of animals. As well, each state has a variety of organizations that each offers something different, resulting in an animal that's right for every senior.


    Pets can be a great way to minimize health concerns for seniors in assisted living facilities, with the impact seen on both the inside and outside.