ANIMALS CONTRIBUTE TO HEALTH AND HAPPINESS FOR SENIORS

Mar 15th, 2012 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Senior Citizen Journal’s ‘Pack’

A couple of SCJ editors recently rescued a stray dog wandering near their home. He was filthy, hair very long and badly matted, full of fleas and very thirsty/hungry.  They scooped him up and did the best job they could cutting the mats off his body, but had to give up and take him to a professional groomer the next day.  They told their cousin who visited that day that they were going to find a good home for him.  He was a beautiful Lhasa Apso. They already had two dogs they had rescued several years ago, and felt they didn’t need a third.

Needless to say, they kept the Lhasa.  Their cousin, recovering from cancer surgery, comes to visit often, and spends most of his time talking to and holding and petting the dogs.  It’s therapy.  He comes regularly for his dose of love from the Pack.

Pets Make Us Happy

Pets make us happy, and a growing body of research shows that pets contribute to our health as well as our happinessThis story published recently on NPR describes what is doing on now in the field of pet therapy science.

When I was Headmaster at a private school for emotionally disturbed children, we had a big Lab-mix dog on campus.  Bear was the canine therapist for all the badly damaged children who needed emotional support to get well.  Dogs are found on campuses such as mine, as well as nursing homes and prisons.  A study over 30 years ago found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t. Another study discovered that petting your dog can reduce blood pressure.  There is a significant positive historical relationship between animals and people.

The NPR story also described beneficial effects for the dogs.  “‘What we found was that they were significantly more likely to be adopted if they were in the dog-walking group,’ she says, thanks to the additional exercise and socialization they were getting.” (NPR, March 11, 2012)

More research is underway, and has the potential to help more senior citizens in the future.  The National Institutes of Health are trying to identify the scientific basis for what we animals-loving seniors already know, that is that animals are good for us; they promote our health and happiness.  In the future, research will be able to identify just how that occurs.

 



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