Perfect Companions: The Many Way Pets Improve Senior Health

There’s nothing like the joy of a wagging tail or the comfort of a satisfied purr. For many seniors, pets have always been an integral part of their families, and with good reason. Pet owners know how much their animal friends add to their lives, but did you know that pets can help improve senior health, too?

Spending time with animal companions has been shown to improve overall health, especially in areas that present challenges to seniors, such as mobility, mood, and stress related concerns.

However, for many seniors, the physical demands of full-time pet ownership may prove too challenging. The good news is that the seniors in your life don’t have to take on full-time care of a pet to get the benefits. Visits from family pets or therapy animals also have positive effects.

That’s why Sunnyside Manor is a pet-friendly community. We have a resident cat and regular visits from family pets and therapy dogs. (Not all senior communities are pet friendly, so be sure to ask.)

Seniors and Animals: A Special Bond

Time with a cherished furry friend can be the perfect prescription to ease some challenges seniors face. For seniors, bonding with an animal has been shown to improve mood and overall happiness, offer a sense of purpose, help with mobility, and provide relief from sadness and anxiety.

Improved Mood

Attending to a pet is a low pressure, fully rewarding way of developing a connection with another living creature. Positive feedback in the form of a wag or a purr is a welcome exchange that creates an emotional bond between a senior and an animal friend. Just like creating an emotional bond with another person, this act of friendship and closeness triggers release of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The release of serotonin sets off a chain reaction of brain chemistry that leads to improved mood and happiness while helping to lower blood pressure and increase relaxation.

In addition to the good company that animals provide, their presence is an instant icebreaker that can make socializing with new people easier and more comfortable.

Purpose and Focus

Caring for an animal offers seniors a sense of purpose and focus. Caring for an animal might mean daily care of one’s own pet, or caring for an animal for a short time during a pet therapy visit. Whether for the long term or for a short visit, seniors benefit from the experience of being a provider, with an improved sense of purpose and self-esteem.

Increased Mobility

Tending to a pet or a visiting animal friend is a great incentive to get moving. Spending time feeding, walking, or playing with an animal helps with dexterity, fine motor skills, and is a great excuse to get up and move!

Relaxation and Relief from Anxiety

Our animal friends aren’t worried about tomorrow, and accept us just as we are today. An animal’s appreciation and warmth can be especially beneficial for seniors who experience anxiety about changes in their health. Seniors who spend time with animals are accepted for what they offer in the moment: whether that is a treat, a loving pat, or a lap to snooze on.

While we think mostly of the therapeutic benefits of dogs and cats because they interact with us so personally, time with any animal can be therapeutic. Gazing into an aquarium full of colorful fish commands the attention, brings an appreciation of natural beauty, and connects us to the “flow” of life. The cheerful chirping of a bird can elevate one’s mood. In fact, the sound of birdsong has been shown to promote feelings of wellbeing and safety.

Pets at Sunnyside Manor

Here at Sunnyside Manor, we have a resident cat, and we regularly welcome dogs from pet therapy groups. We’re also happy to welcome family pets for a visit. If you would like to bring your family pet to visit, we do ask for current vaccination records in order to help ensure everyone’s safety.

For more information, or if you’re considering a move to Sunnyside Manor with an animal companion, please call us at 888-696-2052.

Getting the Help You Need

Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, we are here to help. Begin with our “Getting Started” guide, or call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.

The all new Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care and Skilled Nursing.

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