By Guest Writer, Jasmine Leighty
Grandma’s gotten cranky. While your mother used to love gardening, sunshine and chatting with her friends, getting older seems to have made her prefer grousing, sneering and chortling at your ideas. She spends hours in front of reality TV, at least on the days she gets out of bed. She even yelled at her grandkids during the last visit, something that’s nearly unheard of for many grandmothers.
The answer is not to stop your visits, but it could be to bring along a dog.
The power of pets is already making its mark in many hospitals, assisted living communities and even prisons. Hospitals from Wisconsin to Los Angeles have some type of pet therapy program in place while prisons in Arkansas incorporate a program that allows inmates to train shelter dogs prior to the dogs' adoption. Hundreds of senior living centers across the county also have pet programs or residents.
“Animals re-engage people with life,” says Loren Shook on USA Today, who first witnessed the positive effects animals could have on patients in the psychiatric hospitals where his family used to work. He now helps incorporate the positive effects of pets in his current position as CEO at a senior living center and hospital in Baltimore, following the ever-growing nationwide trend. Those seeking assisted living in San Diego can now just as easily find senior living centers that allow pets on the West Coast as others can find pet-friendly housing for seniors on the East.
Re-engaging with life is just one of the many benefits of what animals can do for their patients, residents and prisoners. Those same benefits can especially hold true for older adults like Grandma.
Whether Grandma’s crankiness comes from being alone too much, feeling useless or being stressed out, a dog can provide companionship, a purpose and stress relief.
Grandma might stay home all the time because she has no reason to leave to house, which results in no one to talk to other than the real housewives of New Jersey. A pet provides instant and welcome companionship. A study published in Social Behavior and Personality polled elderly dog owners who lived alone and found 75 percent of the men and 67 percent of the women proclaimed their dog was their only friend.
If Grandma’s still in good walking shape, taking the dog for a walk forces her out of the house, where she may encounter plenty of people to chat with when they come over to admire her dog. People are more prone to approach folks who have a pet, viewing pet owners as warmer and friendlier.
With her career long gone and Grandpa gone several years after, Grandma may feel like she has little reason to get out of bed in the morning. A pet provides that purpose and gives her an identity. She’s no longer a nondescript cranky grandmother. She’s a doting dog owner.
Petting a dog can bring Grandma’s stress and related grouchiness down a notch. A study published in California Veterinarian found 74 percent of the elderly adults surveyed said they felt better after simply touching their pets. Research noted by the Centers for Disease Control and WebMD point to health benefits that include:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Alleviation of depression
- Strengthened immunity
- Lessening of allergies
- Movement that helps symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Increased levels of well-being and overall quality of life
About the Author: Jasmine is the client services manager for a boutique marketing firm. She loves to write, study SEO trends and take her golden retriever to the dog park.