Pets provide companionship and emotional support to seniors, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

Pets provide companionship and emotional support to seniors, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Studies continually demonstrate that pet owners experience better overall health, reduced stress levels, and increased happiness. Pets also provide other intangibles.

"Dogs - and other pets - live very much in the here and now. They don't worry about tomorrow. And tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. By having an animal with that sense of now, it tends to rub off on people," - Dr Jay P. Granat, Psychotherapist.

Sadly, it is not feasible for all residents in care homes to own pets, making organized visits an excellent alternative.

Pets in Senior Living Communities

Pets provide one of the few interventions capable of permanently lifting the atmosphere of long-term care homes. 

This stems from multiple factors, including increased physical exercise, enhanced socialization, and improved mental functioning from the responsibility of their care.

Pets serve as catalysts for increased activity levels among the elderly, particularly dogs, who help establish an active routine and provide a motivating reason to get up in the morning.

10 Benefits of Pets for Seniors

  • Companionship
  • Stress reduction
  • Increased physical activity
  • Emotional support
  • Social interaction
  • Sense of purpose
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness
  • Improved mood
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Enhanced overall well-being

For Pet Lovers Only

Visiting pets may not be suitable for everyone. It is recommended to include participants who have a fondness for pets or have owned pets in the past. Some individuals may have allergies to pet fur, fear animals, or harbor specific dislikes towards certain animals, making them uncomfortable during such activities.

Related: Pet Therapy with a Dog

Note:  Robotic pets may be more suitable for residents in the advanced stages of dementia. 

3 Ways to Introduce Pets

Even though many facilities do not allow residents to live with their own pets, most of them will embrace pets through alternative means, including:

  • Allowing relatives to bring pets for visits
  • Having a live-in pet (or pets) to share among residents
  • Hiring Pet Therapists from professional companies (see below)

What is Pet Therapy?

In cases where having a pet of your own or arranging pet visits is not feasible, an alternative worth considering is pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT). This therapeutic approach involves purposeful interactions between humans and trained animals, usually dogs or cats, with the goal of promoting physical, emotional, and social well-being.

Conducted by healthcare professionals or trained volunteers, pet therapy is a structured intervention that aims to enhance individuals' overall quality of life by harnessing the positive impact of human-animal interactions.

Joyful Companions for the Elderly

Pets in nursing homes bring joy, companionship, and improved well-being to residents, creating a vibrant and fulfilling environment.

We'd love to hear your feedback.
What has been your experience with pets in senior living communities?

Save time with 1000's of meaningful
activity ideas for every occasion.

Enter your email address to collect your free activities.

✓ 100% Privacy ✓ No Spam

Comments   Post a Comment

Judy 4th Mar 2024 Diversional Therapist
In the Dementia care facility where I work, we have the Dog squad coming to visit monthly. We also have volunteers and family members coming in with their dogs. Our residents adore visits from the dogs. They will gather around like members of a fan club. We currently have a family member of a resident who is blind. When she visits her family member with her guide dog in toe the residents get so excited. She is very accommodating in allowing time for her dog to have pats, while he is working. This delights our residents and her dog loves the attention he gets. Bringing pets into the facility is so important. It promotes conversation and also gives tactile stimulation through patting /stroking.
Jenny 3rd Mar 2020
Is there anyone out there that has a friendly cat that could visit a care home in Dorchester Dorset?
Susan 3rd Mar 2020 Activity Director
Hi Jenny
This would be a good question to ask our Facebook group
Lynette 27th Feb 2018
Jethro is my 14 month old Yorkie and has started visiting the Alzheimer section of our local Old age care facility. My mother had to be placed in care. The matron was most kind when I mentioned that my Mum missed him very much. She gave permission for him to visit each time I do. I follow pet therapy rules as stipulated in SA and although its early days, I can already see a difference in the ladies. I am planning to see if I can find a suitable kitten at the local SPCA. A lady who has rabbits will be approached to ask for the loan of one of her bunnies at a suitable stage. I believe that pet visits will help to supplement the art therapy I have started. My " pets" also provide me with therapy. Thank you for your ideas and thoughts. With Yorkie love and kisses.
Talita 3rd Mar 2018
oh this is wonderful Lynette, all the best!
Lynn 27th Mar 2017
Pet therapy is also referred to as animal-assisted therapy (AAT). AAT is sometimes confused with animal-assisted activities (AAA). AAT is a formal, structured set of sessions that helps people reach specific goals in their treatment. AAA involves more casual meetings in which an animal and its handler interact with one or more people for comfort or recreation.
........A family member bringing in a pet i.e. dog that is not a certified therapy dog makes it a pet visit not pet therapy... please see link above for more information on Pet Therapy.
Rhoda Brown 16th Mar 2017
The Tenants Union successfully challenged this ban several times, arguing landlords are not entitled to restrict tenants from having pets because it interferes with their ”quiet enjoyment” of the property.

Tenants can’t be evicted on the basis of the clause, says Mr Archer, but they can be evicted if their pet is a nuisance, damages property or is a danger.
Rhoda Brown 16th Mar 2017
The Tenants Union successfully challenged this ban several times, arguing landlords are not entitled to restrict tenants from having pets because it interferes with their 'quiet enjoyment' of the property.

Tenants can't be evicted on the basis of the clause, says Mr Archer, but they can be evicted if their pet is a nuisance, damages property or is a danger.
Activities - Bedingfeld Park Inc 20th Mar 2016 Aged Care
We are very fortunate, as one of our hotel staff members has 2 small beautiful, well behaved little dogs that trot around after her all during her shifts. They are more than happy to sit a while here and there when invited to an offering lap. The residents (and staff) love to have them here. Our Activities Coordinator also recently had chicken eggs delivered, along with all the necessary equipment to care for these eggs through the hatching process and until the chicks were a week old. This was a huge hit with all the residents! I have been on the lookout for something else we can try, and I am wondering if anyone has a hermit crab house? I think I will look into it ..... growing hermit crabs also need extra shells made available for them as they outgrow their old ones, and I thought it could be fun to have some residents paint these,
Talita 21st Mar 2016
Oh yes you are fortunate, your two little dogs sound lovely! Please share a photo of them with some residents if you can. I've never heard of a hermit crab house - that certainly sounds interesting! Was the chicken hatching program you used called Living Eggs by any chance?
Helen 16th Feb 2016 Diversional therapist
We are so lucky to be a country nursing home and we have two miniature ponies who live in a specially built paddock and stable on premises, one of our residents feeds and grooms the ponies daily and checks and fills their water , we have a special built pathway and large area with table and chairs and open space that sits beside the fence under the trees which brings great joy to the ponies, residents, visitors and our community alike, one pony has been specially trained with scooters and wheelchairs and happily enters the building with me and loves the attention, he has an incredible ability to seek out and settle residents who are restless and we have even had a residents who didn't normally vocalize talk to him, we have competed at shows and some residents are accompanied by volunteers and staff to the shows and they are delighted when our babes bring home ribbons. we have also had a couple of foals which are just too cute to describe and at stand about 19 inches so are perfect lap ponies, bit different to the average dog but the residents love them and enjoy watching their tricks and their training, I do supervise the overall care with vets, poopy scooping, worming and farriers etc, but they are our pride and very much loved, Helen .
Mary Ann 8th Sep 2015 Leisure and Lifestyle Coordinator
Margaret, thanks for sharing your beautiful story.

In my facility we have a dog visiting the residents every Monday and I am lucky that the therapy dog Cassey and her handler visit my wing first. The residents absolutely love her, they appear more alert, generally happy and content. These feelings seem to last till the last programmed activity for the morning and participation and enjoyment are much higher . I am not quite sure if this is also an effect of Pet Therapy but I have observed that the residents who interact with Cassey eat better at lunch time. Casey's visits also make way for a group discussion and reminiscing.
Shelley 25th Aug 2015 Music therapist
I have heard from many professionals, and seen for myself, the transformation people make around animals. There is a safety net that surrounds the interaction. There is no judgment, no tone of voice, and no disappointment. If we can try to keep this in mind while interacting with someone with dementia, and provide that safety net, the engagement will have more meaning, and a higher level of success.
Nicola 16th Jun 2015 Care Facilitator
I look after a day centre and would love to have my own dog, which is pet therapy approved. How would I go about getting my own dog that I can take with me to work? Can anyone suggest anywhere or somewhere that would "test" the dog to make sure I have the dog covered as well as myself in a day centre setting?
Margaret 2nd Jun 2015 Diversional Therapist
i am Activity coordinator and adpoted an 11 year old West Highland Terrier called Bede 7 months ago from the RSPCA. He comes to work with me. He is my responsibility.
I am passionate about the benifits of having animals in aged care.
The following shows why
Comment from resident 7/1/15
Mrs X called me aside in the Lovell dining room to thank me for bringing the dog Bede to work with me.
"It is good just to see him around, it makes me feel good anyway and all the people say they like him. Thanks for bringing him to work with you, it makes it more like a home.

Bede at work November 2014
A resident is this week going through significant changes in her dementia.
When she first came to live in the home three years ago she was very bright, she had her small dog, a white Maltese X . Eventually a staff member took the old dog home when the resident could no longer manage her. The dog died aged fourteen.
During this last week the resident has been confused as to time, place, who people are, who she and is thus very anxious and does not settle for more than a few minutes at a time.
Yesterday as her mobility has declined staff brought her along to a concert she used to enjoy. One of the staff sat with her but still she was anxious and unsettled.
I went and got Bede and with him on my knee facing her I sat next to her.
Immediately she began talking quieter about the lovely little dog. She leaned towards Bede and patted him gently. Her eyes focused on his face, her hand went back to her lap. She continued to look into Bede's eyes. For his part Bede leaned forward and gave her nose a gentle lick. She looked at me then and said proudly "the little dog likes me".
For the next 25 mins till the concert ended she gazed at Bede's face. Not once did she look at the entertainers or anything else. In her confusion she had found a point of stability, she had found a body memory of a little white dogs love. Her breathing slowed, her body and her mind had found peace for a time.
After the concert I told her I was taking Bede to the garden while we served afternoon tea. She didn't mind, she understood that dogs like to go to the garden.
20 mins later when I wheeled her back to her room she was still relaxed and settled.
It was a small moment when Bede met the Lady, when their eyes linked but it gave her unconditional acceptance and peace. A very precious gift indeed.

Bede at work February this year - After lunch myself and Bede were going to the office when Bede took a detour, he went into the room of a resident who has begun the final journey. Bede walked into his room and sat down. Two of the residents family were sitting, one either side of the bed. They told the resident that Bede had come in for a visit.
The resident who is on a morphine drip did not respond. The family asked me to put Bede on the bed. Which I did, Bede remained calm and went into the drop position, the family member told the resident that Bede was on the bed.
Nothing happened. Stillness. Bede continued to sit, then the residents hand reached out to Bede and without opening their eyes the resident began to stroke Bede’s head over and over. The other hand reached out and again patted Bede. This went on for a few minutes, just an everyday action but now imbued with so much meaning. The family members cried, I cried and Bede remained totally centred within the union of himself and the dying resident.

Robyn 17th Mar 2015 CEO
We have adopted two cats in our dementia wing which have proved to be a great asset to our facility. Both cats have been desexed are wormed and given flea treatment on a regular basis. One resident in particular regularly requests the company of a cat on his bed at night when he cannot sleep and the staff oblige by bringing in the cat to spend time with the resident. We find that this has prevented this resident from continually walking around the facility all hours of the night. The cats roam around on their own free will but are locked out at meal times. It makes me feel good when I see a resident sitting on the verandah nursing one of the cats and talking to it like it is one of their family.. We should remember that a lot of residents come into aged care facilities and have to leave their pets which can cause unhappiness. If we can bring just a little bit of pleasure to our residents then I say go for it.
Irma 26th Feb 2015
I bring my dog to work every day since she was 9 weeks old. I am the allied health service manager and she is the most popluar staff member of all. Her name is Missy (now 18 months old ) and she is a ShihTzu. The residents absolutely love her. I just take her with me where ever I go and she walks along enjoying all the pats and cuddles. If I have to leave her home for some reason everyone misses her! Whenever a resident sees me, he/she will look down to search for Missy and they are quite upset if she is not there. She has made a differnce to the home's atmosphere and we cannot imagine a home without a pet.
No Avatar