Importance of welcoming pets into community living

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Pet ownership has several proven benefits for people of all ages, including physical, mental and emotional aspects. As adults age, the companionship of a pet can continue to improve their overall health and quality of life.

Just because a senior moves to an assisted living community, doesn't mean they can no longer reap the benefits of their furry friends. Many communities recognize the advantages that pets have to their residents. As a result, pet-friendly assisted living communities are popping up nationwide.

From medical benefits to social perks, a four-legged friend could be the best medicine for older adults. A few of these benefits are further detailed here.

Companionship and purpose: Pets provide seniors with both companionship and a sense of purpose. The company of a pet helps seniors feel less alone. This can be especially beneficial to those who have lost a spouse or close friend.

Besides the simple presence of a pet, caring for an animal provides purpose for older adults, especially those who are single. Knowing that their pet depends on them helps motivate seniors and encourage positivity.

Improved mood and calmness: Pets bring a sense of calmness and can alleviate stress and anxiety for aging adults. People often report being happier in the presence of a pet, and there is science behind their feelings.

Touching a furry pet can increase serotonin, a chemical associated with happiness.

Additionally, pets help lower cortisol. High levels of cortisol are associated with stress, so pets are a true de-stressor. These benefits are increasingly helpful for seniors who may suffer from depression.

Staying social: Pets provide opportunities for seniors to socialize by sparking conversation with others. Social interactions are especially beneficial for adults who have dementia.

Also, seniors' interactions with their pets might help manage symptoms of cognitive decline.

Daily exercise: An active lifestyle is important for maintaining health at all stages of life. Having a pet to take on walks is a great way to keep seniors active.

Research shows that adults in senior living communities who own a dog are more physically active than their dog-less peers. Daily exercise has many advantages for aging adults' lives.

Having a pet to walk might be just the motivation that some seniors need to get moving.

All in all, pet companionship is good for all. Find a furry friend and enjoy the benefits.

Kaylynn Evans, MSM-HC, LNHA, CADDT, CDDM is executive director at Vineyard Bluffton. vineyardbluffton.com

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Health & Wellness
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