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Amazing Ways Pets Help Seniors Adjust

By Sandy Schroeder

If you have a senior in your family who is struggling with age and pain issues, a pet might be a wonderful distraction.

As everything else in their world seems to be tilting, your senior may find the tail-wagging presence of a little dog or a purring cat to be a wonderful contrast. Pets can bring back many happy memories and provide some preseent-day chuckles as they happily pursue life this minute.

Pets in Action

I had an aunt, who was temporarily in a rehab facility for a broken leg. We were amazed at the flow of pets that came and went. On the weekends, often relatives would bring in a favored pet from home for a brief visit. On other times, a very gentle yellow Labrador made his way about the facility, stopping to cheer one senior after another. 

One memorable day as Easter approached, I looked up to see a young man proudly carrying a huge white rabbit down the hallway. That must have been a delightful surprise.

The health dividends of pets for seniors turn out to be stress reduction, lowered blood pressure, increased social interaction, and more physical activity, according to AgingCare.com.

Soothing Moments for Seniors

My father loved pets all of his life and dogs were always part of our family. In his last years, the squirrels that filled the trees in our backyard became a wonderful new distraction for him. Corn was placed out on the back patio, and before we knew it, the squirrels were hopping up and peering in the windows, much to the delight of my father. He spent many contented hours watching the squirrels come and go. Before he often became depressed with inactivity, but the squirrels changed the mood and kept him involved.

Little Things Make the Difference

Moods can be a big thing with seniors as they feel their world changing around them, and often worry what tomorrow will bring. But, as psychologists point out, pets live very much in the world as it is now. They love to play and are happy to be petted. This spontaneous enjoyment can pull seniors back from dark moods and help them happily stay in the moment.

Soon they will be looking forward to the next visit, and wanting to find new toys for their new friends. Sometimes that can lead to other things that they enjoyed, such as songs, piano playing or books. The facility where my aunt stayed kept a whole string of crafts, pets, music and guests going, helping to keep their seniors a little happier.

If this sounds like it could brighten things for a senior you know, consider how you might introduce pets or other familiar distractions such as hobbies or music, into their daily world. Sometimes it just takes one happy memory to change the whole flow of their world, for the better.

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