Improving Physical and Mental Health in our Elders with the Help of Support Animals

There are many reasons to bring an animal into your home besides the unconditional love they come with. Animals provide support and happiness to humans and there are many studies utilizing dogs, cats, birds, etc. as therapy pets for those who may need emotional support. Most studies have shown that there are both mental and physical benefits of having a therapy animal to support the elderly. Such benefits, as far as improvements in mental health, include relief from social isolation and boredom and improvements in behavior in elderly with dementia (Cherniack, P. & Cherniack, A., 2014). Therapy animals were also found to increase physical activity and decrease blood pressure in the elderly (Cherniack, P. & Cherniack, A., 2014).

Service animals are usually dogs and provide physical and mental support to those with disabilities. Larger dogs such as German Shepherds, Labradors, or Golden Retrievers are typically used to support adults because of their physical strength, ability to train, and gentle nature. There is extra training involved with training a service dog (as opposed to a therapy pet) in order to ensure their readiness to be around more vulnerable people. Like therapy pets, studies show that having a service dog yields both physical and mental benefits to the elderly (Alt, K. 2017). Two Hearts Homes for Seniors, as a pet friendly senior living, has chosen to take this information to heart and adopt a service dog for our home. Louie is an English Golden Retriever dog who has been spending his time being trained at a qualified, certified service animal school and will serve as our support dog for the residents at Two Hearts Homes for Seniors. We chose to send Louie for service dog training because we want our residents to be safe, happy, and in the best hands (paws).

By: Janel M. Robilotta RN, MSN