It doesn’t take a scientist to know that pets make humans feel good; anyone who’s ever stroked a dog’s fur or felt a cat’s thrumming purr knows this. Science can, however, tell us how and why pets can be therapeutic. Just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. This is why visits from pets can be so beneficial for the elderly.
Recently we had a visit from Henry, Paulie and Bella, the charming “little horses” whose visits bring smiles to everyone they meet at the Jeanne Jugan Center. One Resident who needs daily encouragement to leave her room, begged for more time with Bella when they met and she saw how easy it was to be around the small horses. As we know, for seniors, the benefits of a furry companion can be life-changing. We’d imagine the visit was a treat to Henry, Paulie and Bella also!