There’s a reason thousands of well-behaved canines have been labeled “therapy dogs” in the last several decades. During World War II, dogs comforted and provided furry companionship for injured soldiers. Today, therapy dogs are deployed to children’s hospitals and geriatric wards around the world, because they do so much to lift the spirits of those who are hurting or alone.
Dogs also are making their way into homes for specific therapy reasons. Some visit children whose active-duty military parent has just been deployed. Other dogs give senior citizens a much-needed housemate—and a reason to be more active.
1. A loving pet can make seniors feel less isolated from the rest of the world. Pets give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning; to go for a walk, to fill their food bowls or just to toss the tennis ball for them. This can be especially beneficial for seniors, who often live by themselves and don’t have much company. Interaction with a pet reduces stress hormones among seniors, giving them a better sense of well-being as a result of their pet companionship, according to psychologists.
2. Elderly pet owners are more likely to be active than non-pet owners. Seniors with pets just tend to get out more. Something about having a dog or other pet lends itself to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Studies have shown that dog walking gives a boost to the parasympathetic nervous system of seniors, which increases their calm and sense of well-being, and may actually have beneficial physical effects as well.
3. Pets reduce stress and dissolve depression. According to WebMd, pets give owners unconditional love, responsibility, and a fuzzy and warm body to pet, which are all factors in helping to reduce everyday stress and aiding those with depression. Pets also can encourage social activity that gets seniors out of their homes and around people.
4. Owning a pet can have medical benefits. While it’s fairly common knowledge that pets can make their owners happier, some studies have shown that they also can make them healthier. Pet owners generally live longer than the rest of the population. Plus, they’re less likely to die of heart disease and generally have lower blood pressure than their peers who don’t have pets.
5. Pets can improve seniors’ overall quality of life. If social and medical reasons weren’t enough to convince you, consider this: Pet owners have a higher quality of life in general, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pet owners are forced to focus outside themselves and on the needs of their pets—and they get a loyal, loving companion as part of the bargain.
Don’t forget to treat your pets like one of the family. A heated pet bed will warm you pet during the cold winter months. For your senior pet, consider a Heated Orthopedic Dog Bed to with orthopedic foam designed to provide your dog with lots of support.