Pets can help us lead happier, healthier lives. Companionship with a pet will ease loneliness, reduce depression, stimulate movement and boost moods.
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Pets can help us lead happier, healthier lives. It is not uncommon to pick up a magazine or newspaper and read yet another article describing the benefits of pets for long-term care residents, hospital patients and sick children.

Among the beneficiaries are people living with dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. Pets are good for everyone. Companionship with a pet will ease loneliness, reduce depression, stimulate movement and boost moods.

Pets in Nursing Homes

Where possible, Activity Coordinators should try and incorporate regular pet visits into their activity programs to provide an enjoyable break to the structured routines of nursing homes and long term care facilities.

Ideally, every nursing home should own some pets, for example: dogs, cats, canaries, budgies, fish, turtles or rabbits. However, if this is not possible then a visiting dog or cat can also cheer and comfort residents with remarkable success.

Related: Pets in Nursing Homes - How, Why, & What

Dogs greet everyone with the same enthusiasm regardless of who they are or whether they communicate effectively and most people enjoy touching the soft fur of a cat.

Related: Pet Therapy (with a dog) and Pet Therapy: Bathing a Dog

Benefits of Pet Companionship for the Elderly

The benefits of pet interaction and companionship may include:

1. Mental Stimulation
Pets are a wonderful source of interaction, entertainment and enjoyment.

2. Shifting of focus
Often residents in long term facilities concentrate too much on themselves because of chronic pain, depression or poor self esteem. Animals can provide a new focus of conversation.

3. Acceptance
Animals accept people unconditionally and this can be heartwarming and soothing for residents.

4. Increased Self Esteem
Residents often suffer from their perceived loss of freedom and responsibility; animals can add purpose and inspiration to their lives.

5. Entertainment
Pets inspire humor and good times.

6. Rapport
Pets are emotionally safe and non-threatening. They don’t discriminate or impose demands. They live for the moment and interacting with them often helps residents concentrate on the present and stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

7. Development of Empathy
Animal’s are easier to ‘read’ than humans and interaction with pets can help develop an individual’s sense of empathy as they respond to the animal's needs.

8. Reminiscing
Caring for pets encourages adherence to a daily schedule and will often evoke wonderful memories of the past.

Related: Reminiscing Activities for Seniors

9. Physical Activity
Caring for a pets encourages physical activity: feeding, playing, walking etc.

Related: How to Plan & Implement an Exercise Program

10. Socialization
Most people love animals and will enjoy sharing time together in the company of animals, talking and laughing together.

11. Physiological Benefits
Being around animals provides stress relief and spiritual fulfillment. An animal’s love is unconditional.

Related: 10 Spiritual Activities for People with Alzheimer's Diseas

The Ideal Pet

The ideal pet is one that is calm and gentle. Even just weekly or fortnightly visits with an animal can bring about wonderful results.

Remember that there may be some people who are afraid of dogs or cats – for these people a pet bird or an aquarium may be better.

If you know someone who has a calm and friendly dog ask them to pay your facility a visit.
It may not work for everybody but it is absolutely worth a try!

We'd love to hear your feedback!
What has been your experience with pets for the elderly?

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Comments   Post a Comment

Evy 9th May 2017
What happens to the chicks once they hatch?
Caitlin 30th Nov 2014 Recreation therapist
We have a the local K9 perspective dog training group into see all our residents on the first Friday of each month. Its great for both the resident's and animals. Our dementia wing comes to life when the dogs are visiting. Its amazing, some residents that never talk start to talk to the dogs. It is real fun for us all. Caitlin
Janita 21st Mar 2014 Diversional Therapist and Carer
Does anyone have a number or name so l can get in touch with people who have pet therapy dogs to bring to Aged Care Facilities. I am in Berwick Melbourne Victoria. Please contact me by email
[email protected]
Thanks Janita
Leanne 25th Feb 2013 Lifestyle Coordinator
Living Eggs have sites in most of Australia's capital cities, country areas are available in some instances. Go to for all the info ......... Good cluck! :)
Kelly 23rd Feb 2013 Recreation Therapist
Leanne I love the 'living egg' exhibit idea. I live in NSW where do I head to find out more and if it is available near my nursing home?
Leanne 4th May 2017
We recently ha d a program at our Day Center "Henny Penny' it was amazing to watch the chicks hatching
Leanne 21st Feb 2013 Lifestyle Coordinator
I'm having wonderful success with a 'living egg' exhibit currently. Often run for school children, the company supplies an incubator & warming box with fertilized eggs. The residents have been 'mesmerized' by watching the baby chicks hatch, then we have a deep discussion about naming rights' and the hatchlings are placed into the warming box. After a few hours, they 'fluff' up and are ready for lots of 'cuddles'. The equipment is collected after 2 weeks & any chickens that have not already been 'adopted' out are returned. So much great feedback has been received.
Just before Easter, I visit my local pet store & 'borrow' 2 baby white rabbits for the day. The rabbits are very docile & sit quite happily on a hand towel and are passed to each resident. Wonderful for those in reclined chairs (or in bed) as they sit quite happily on the resident's laps or stomachs. We 'borrowed' 5 hens from a fodder store one day & set them up in the Activity room & reminisced about childhood experiences with chicken & then finished off by sharing our favorite chicken recipes! I'll save the pony visits & baby animal farm visit info for another day.
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