Seasons Animal-Assisted Therapy Sparks Positivity

Therapy animals at Seasons Retirement Community

Philosopher Martin Buber professed, “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” Research shows that animal-assisted therapy (AAT), also called pet therapy, can positively impact the quality of life of seniors. Overall, interacting with animals reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and increases social interaction. Pet therapy is also proven to enhance seniors’ motor skills and range of motion, as the practice allows for active engagement in brushing, petting, and even walking the animal.

AAT aids in easing anxiety and boosting self-confidence, as animals are infamous for being great listeners while simultaneously offering unconditional love. This practice can also improve self-esteem and confidence in people living with dementia by promoting quality of life and encouraging independence. AAT may help them stay engaged and involved if they have trouble communicating or having conversations.

Spending time with animals releases feel-good hormones, including oxytocin and serotonin. These hormones reduce stress, elevating one’s mood and increasing happiness. At Seasons Retirement Communities, pet therapy for seniors includes a wide range of practices, both formal and informal; for some residents, this means snuggling with their favourite home pet, while others have structured interactions with a therapy animal. The ideal temperament for this type of animal is calm, friendly, and gentle, all characteristics crucial for successful visits with seniors.

In honour of National Pet Therapy Day on April 30, Seasons describes a handful of the many benefits of AAT:

  1.     Accelerated Physical Activity

Interactions with animals, such as brushing and snuggling, encourage enhanced mobility and reflexes and reduce sluggishness. It may be something as simple as playing with a string with a cat, to an activity like walking a dog around the block, like residents can do weekly when they are visited by therapy dogs Maggie at Seasons Dufferin Centre, Maddy at Seasons High River or Emerald at Seasons Royal Oak Village.

  1.     Amplified Mental Activity

AAT can encourage intellectual acuity and problem-solving skills, such as teaching an animal something new. Baby chicks have visited Memory Care residents at Seasons Milton and Seasons Owen Sound. Shown to be incredibly empathetic, these creatures can be wonderful companions that also aid in reducing anxiety and depression.

  1.     Expanded Communication

Communicating with animals can be amusing but also cathartic and healing. This type of human-to-animal verbal interaction can increase human-to-human speech experience. Asking friendly questions about animals also can be a great conversation starter. Seasons Amherstburg saw this recently when their residents were visited by a charming umbrella cockatoo named Tito.

  1.     Elevated Positive Emotions

The emotional benefits of AAT are well established. It is proven to increase a sense of security and decrease stress, alleviating worries and discomforts. Seasons Clarington added a robotic cat and dog to their home courtesy of Therapeutic Paws of Canada. Residents are enthralled with the realism of the animals, from their movements to the sounds they make. They are soothing and helpful to refocus attention if someone is having a difficult day.

  1.     Lessened Loneliness

An increase in emotional connectedness and a decrease in isolation are significant benefits of AAT. This can occur even with basic activities, such as feeding a fish. Simple but impactful interactions, like residents at Seasons Milton and Seasons St. Catharines experience weekly, with visits from their local St. John’s Ambulance therapy dogs, can easily bring a smile to a senior’s face.

  1.     Complementary Locus of Control

When animals are both well-trained and well-behaved, AAT can increase seniors’ sense of control over their environment, reducing possible feelings of powerlessness. This can trigger with simple acts such as a dog trotting to them or a cat meowing when their name is called. Residents at Seasons Owen Sound have benefited from horse therapy on the grounds of their beautiful home. They were recently visited by a trio of baby goats named Athena, Aries & Cricket.

Animals offer a wide array of benefits to seniors. When researching senior housing options for yourself or a loved one, ask about the pet policy and whether they provide animal-assisted or regular pet therapy visits. Please click the Locations tab on our website and connect with the Seasons location nearest you for more information.

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