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Animal Assisted Therapy for Seniors: Animals are Healers


Imagine you're in the hospital. The doctor mentions the hospital's animal assisted therapy program and asks if you're interested. You say yes, and your doctor arranges for someone to tell you more about the program. Soon after that, a therapy dog and it's handler visits your hospital room. They stay for 10-15 minutes, and you're invited to pet the dog and ask the handler questions. After the visit, you realize they've left you smiling, and you feel a little less tired and alot more optimistic. You can't wait to tell your family all about that charming canine you've met. In fact, you're already looking forward to your next visit with a therapy animal!

Animal assisted therapy is a technique that uses animals to interact with seniors for numerous reasons to help improve their quality of life. It can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health issues, including and most importantly, seniors. Animal assisted therapy can help:

  • Seniors, and others, receiving cancer treatment
  • Seniors in long-term care facilities
  • Seniors with cardiovascular diseases
  • Seniors with dementia
  • Seniors that struggle with anxiety or depression
  • Seniors that have chosen to age at home
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

Studies show that just fifteen minutes spent bonding with an animal promotes hormonal changes within the brain. It is not only the seniors who reap the benefits of the therapy, but often times family and friends who sit in on the animal visits say they feel better after the visits as well!


Does animal-assisted therapy have risks?

The biggest concern, particularly in hospitals, is safety and sanitation. Most hospitals and other facilities that use pet therapy have stringent rules to ensure that the animals are clean, vaccinated, well-trained, and screened for appropriate behavior.


Written By: Care Manager - Kelly Foster, LPN, CM


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