People of all ages can benefit greatly from having an emotional support animal. When was the last time you pet a dog, cat, or even a bird and it made you sad or angry? Probably never! Beyond those wagging tails, cute fluffy ears, and unconditional love, pets also provide important emotional support.
Studies show that pets have essential mood-boosting powers that can help combat stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness — to name a few. These benefits, and more, make emotional support animals a possible solution for seniors who might be suffering from mental and physical health concerns.
If you or an older loved one is in need of a new furry companion, here are some important things to keep in mind when welcoming a new emotional support animal into your life:
More Than a Companion
Many seniors benefit mentally and physically from having an emotional support animal. Pets make it possible to have a daily routine, which encourages seniors to also have one. This is important for staying physically active and can reduce the risks of depression or anxiety. You can’t stay in bed all day when you have a pet who needs food, water, and some playtime. The trade-off to taking care of our pets’ needs is, of course, their love and companionship, which is something most seniors need as they age to help lower feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Pets are a long-term commitment, though, which can scare away seniors from adopting a new animal. However, even just petting a dog or cat can reduce blood pressure and stress levels which means, it’s possible to still reap the benefits of an emotional support animal without the commitment. Residents of retirement communities who have a community pet not only see the benefits of spending time with a furry companion but they still get that important sense of responsibility that comes with pet ownership by grooming, feeding treats, and playing with the pet. They don’t have to maintain the overall cost or commitment of a pet though. Whatever emotional support pet option works best is worth trying, especially if you or a senior member in your family is having a difficult time.
While an emotional support animal does provide a plethora of benefits, there’s likely to be some concern over cost and currently, the possible spread of viruses such as COVID-19 from animal to human. These are valid concerns, especially for the senior population. If full-time pet ownership is too costly, there are pet therapy services for hire that can bring emotional support animals or just a friendly companion for a visitation. Many of these services are willing to come to nursing homes, retirement communities, or even the hospital. This is a great alternative that still achieves those important emotional support animal benefits.
While there have been concerns over COVID-19 passing from pets to people, it’s important to keep in mind that there have been no confirmed cases of humans getting the coronavirus from their pets’ skin or fur. Research shows that this virus mainly gets transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets when a person infected with the virus coughs, sneezes, or even talks. While other health considerations are necessary, especially for seniors who are part of the at-risk group, the chances of getting the coronavirus from a pet should not affect a senior’s ability to own or be near an emotional support animal for now. Moreover, with many establishments such as nursing homes limiting family and friend visitations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this means a pet may be more emotionally beneficial than ever before as residents are likely to feel especially lonely and isolated during this time.
At the end of the day, from labrador retrievers to parakeets, emotional support animals are a fantastic option for seniors who might currently be struggling physically or mentally. While owning an emotional support pet is a serious commitment that requires time, money, and attention, they provide endless benefits to seniors so it’s worth considering that commitment. If owning is simply not an option, then contact local pet therapy businesses and look into setting up regular animal visits.