Pet Therapy Can Help Seniors
By Kay Quinn
KSDK – Pets in assisted living centers and nursing homes are nothing new. Many have a resident dog or cat to make a center feel more like home.
But some senior living centers have gone a step further.
Pet therapy has medically proven benefits including lowering blood pressure, and improving psychological well-being. That’s why many senior and assisted living centers are allowing residents to bring their own pets with them when they move in.
A live pianist usually draws a big crowd at Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Des Peres. And you can usually find Parker, the resident Golden Retriever nearby. But six of the residents here, including Dorris Kracke, brought along their own pets when they moved here from their homes.
Kracke says she’d be lonely without her cat Jimmy. “Yes definitely. What could you do? You need to have something.”
Marjorie Weir and her husband Mac, both 83, say they wouldn’t have considered leaving their German schnauzer Heidi behind when they sold their home and moved to assisted living several months ago.
“I was worried how she would adjust to it, how she would get along with all of the people and what was going to happen to her. And I would not have left her,” says Weir.
They were pleasantly surprised to find she could come too. “I love her and she’s well she’s part of the family.”
It’s a bond that senior living centers are increasingly recognizing as an important one. Studies show seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who don’t. Medication costs are loser in nursing homes where pets are an important part of the environment. Animals can also help seniors through life’s major transitions, like leaving a home they’ve lived in for decades.
“They’ve lost spouses and they may be a little depressed and animals have a wonderful way of providing a sense of belonging a sense of purpose if they’re caring for one of the little pooches,” says Deb Summers, the reminiscence coordinator at Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Des Peres.
Robert Evert didn’t bring a pet with him when he moved to assisted living after his wife died. But he says the friendship he developed with Parker has made the transition easier. “If anything helps, that helps.”
An organization called Metro Animal Resource Services, an all volunteer group whose primary mission is to reduce the number of dogs and cats that are euthanized in the St. Louis area, provides a list of senior and assisted living centers that allow residents to bring their pets to live with them. Click on the link to the right to view the list.