Many families live with animals (pets) that are now considered to be a major part of the family circle itself. This shows how important animals can be in creating connections and a positive mood for many and most individuals. In fact, pets have a huge multitude of positive contributions, including a wide array of positive impacts on the mental health of individuals or families.
Geriatric Mental Health
This extends to older adults and geriatric mental health. Even though there is a link between pets and mental health in general, this is also strongly evident between pets and older adults; with pet therapy being a major intervention for geriatric depression (Ambrosi et al., 2018).
The many benefits of pets for older adults are varied. Most importantly, as discussed above, pets decrease mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even stress. A link exists between people who have pets and lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol, whilst increasing levels of calmness and improving overall quality of life.
Animals Combat Loneliness
Another major benefit of having pets for older adults is that they significantly decrease loneliness. Adopting pets helps older adults combat one of the biggest problems that older adults face, as they get high-quality interactions with their pets when they may not have the same interactions with their families or social circles. Knowing that there is a living being in their homes that are non-judgmental makes older adults feel less isolated and just happier in general.
Animals Form Structure
A third major benefit of animals is that they help create some sort of structure for their older adults. We know that unfortunately, many older adults seem to find it difficult to maintain a stable routine, which is why having an animal as a pet at home allows the older adult to create structure and a routine. We know that having a pet is indeed a significant commitment, but this should be taken in a positive light. Having a pet requires the owner to make sure that the animal is fed, clean and in generally good health.
Finally, in addition to the above, having pets promotes exercise and movement, and as a result of this, older adults have added incentives to stay active. In previous articles, we discussed the huge advantages of staying active, as it helps improve cardiovascular and respiratory functioning, as well as alleviates many symptoms of mental health. Having a pet leads to this.
So, to conclude, whilst having pets may seem to be a lot of work, pets have incredible advantages. Always consider these ‘natural’ ways to help combat issues like low mood or loneliness, as they really do make a difference.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with clients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Yaser Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics, and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.
Ambrosi, C., Zaiontz, C., Peragine, G., Sarchi, S., & Bona, F. (2018). Randomized controlled study on the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy on depression, anxiety, and illness perception in institutionalized elderly. Psychogeriatrics, 19(1), 55–64. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyg.12367