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IKF Blog
Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pet Projects

blog-petprojectsjpgAt many Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) you will find some very special residents, some of whom boast an inordinate amount of fur and with noses that are somewhat colder than normal. These cherished residents are greeted fondly wherever they go on campus. The joys of having a pet are well known from childhood and certainly do not diminish as we grow older.
Scientists have been studying how the relationships between pets and their owners affect human emotions and physiology for some time now. The studies have shown that petting, playing or snuggling with a warm furry pet will help lower blood pressure, cope better with stress and stay more active.

"Pets are an important form of social contact," says Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for Human-Animal Bond at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University. "For older people who may be less mobile and who have few or limited companions, animals provide family and friendship, something to care for and to be recognized by.”

A few studies have also shown that pets can sometimes help people with Alzheimer’s. According to Dr. Lynette Hart, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, "Studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home. Caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog." Alzheimer's patients who were attached to their pets also had fewer reported mood disorders, Hart adds.

There are a number of explanations for exactly how pets accomplish all these health benefits. First of all, pets need walking, feeding, grooming, fresh water, and they encourage lots of playing and petting. Performing these normal activities keeps a pet owner engaged Even if it’s just getting up to let a dog out a few times a day or brushing a cat, any activity can benefit the cardiovascular system and help keep joints limber and flexible. Consistently performing this kind of minor exercise can keep pet owners able to carry out the normal activities of daily living. Pets may also aid seniors simply by providing some physical contact.

Most CCRCs will have walking paths right on the campus for short or long strolls with our four legged friends. Take a visit to any Continuing Care Retirement Community and you will see for yourself residents and their faithful companions enjoying the day together. Many pet owners believe that an animal’s communication skills are almost human. One thing we know—if they could talk they would agree: life at a CCRC is just about perfect.

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