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The Benefits of Therapy Dogs for Seniors

The senior population is growing to larger numbers more than ever before. According to the United States Census Bureau, by the year 2060, one-fourth of the American population will be seniors. With the senior population drastically growing, the industry is continuously searching for new methods of providing efficient care and ensuring the highest quality of life. One of these growing sectors is therapy dogs and how they positively impact seniors.

Franklin Park® Senior Living, offering assisted living services in San Antonio, Texas, provides pet therapy and community dogs at many of our communities. We’re sharing some of the benefits that these furry friends can bring!

Mental Benefits

Have you ever petted a dog that was excited to see you? The dog will wag its tail, lick your face, and become overwhelmed with joy. This scene will bring a smile to almost anyone’s face. According to the National Institute of Health, therapy dogs can actually lower levels of cortisol, which is directly linked to the fight-or-flight hormone and levels of stress. The same study showed that dogs can also increase a senior’s level of oxytocin, which elevates their mood.

Therapy dogs can help prevent or treat depression in seniors. Often seniors withdraw from everyday activities due to health or mobility issues; this can lead to loneliness and isolation. The following are ways a dog can improve a senior’s social situation:

  • Having a furry companion to interact and exchange love with can be a big factor in feeling less lonely.
  • Having a dog creates more social opportunities such as going to a dog park with other dog owners.
  • Having a pup breaks the isolation barrier, gets seniors outside, and perhaps even interacting with other individuals interested in petting their pet.
  • Having a pet also creates an easy icebreaker and conversation piece with other pet owners.

Another mental benefit of owning a pet is mental stimulation. Often, dementia or Alzheimer’s patients can have agitation episodes, having a cuddly creature can help calm them down. Petting a pup also creates mental stimulation by triggering memories of childhood pets or other animal interactions. Therapy dogs also have psychological benefits for seniors, but they also pose a multitude of physical health benefits.

Physical Benefits

According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet may protect you from heart disease. In coordination with therapy dogs reducing cortisone levels, the reduced levels put less stress on the senior’s heart, making it stronger and healthier. In fact, a lot of the mental benefits of using a therapy dog are tied in with the physical benefits.

Whether it is walking the dog or playing with it, owning or visiting with a pet can increase a senior’s amount of exercise, which can help with – weight loss, heart health, and brain health. Having a pet in the life of a senior can lower their cholesterol and triglyceride levels, known as the amount of fat in the blood.

Owning a therapy dog also helps seniors remain mobile. With little things like feeding, brushing, and petting, a senior can improve their flexibility. With tasks like walking, carrying, and playing a pet, a senior can get cardio and light strength training.

Puppy Options for Your Loved One

Having an older loved one with cognitive impairments may disqualify them from having a therapy dog in their household. If they live with family members, then it could be beneficial for everyone in the household to have a caring, furry friend. If your loved one resides in a senior living community, you can inquire about animal-assisted therapy, or if there is a community pet, you can reserve time with for your loved one. A third option for a senior is having a robotic-pet that is soft to touch but still interactive for your loved one to receive most of the benefits that come along with a therapy dog.

At Franklin Park® Senior Living, we have lovable community dogs, like Doc and Daisy, that can bring our residents mountains of joy. We love each of our community pets and see first-hand how they positively impact the seniors in our San Antonio, Texas communities. If you would be interested in learning more, then contact us today!