Celebrating the benefits of pets to the elderly

elderly and petsEach year, more than 140,000 older people who have to move into care homes or sheltered housing have to relinquish their much loved pet.

Veterinary and medical professions urged to work together

An event at the House of Lords this week celebrated the importance of pets in improving the health and wellbeing of elderly people. It also raised concerns about the number of people forced to give up their pets when they enter care homes or sheltered housing.

Hosted by Professor the Lord Trees and sponsored by the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), last night’s reception aimed to raise awareness of the ways in which the relationship between pets and elderly people benefits society at large, as well as the individual.

Lord Trees discussed the plethora of research that shows the health benefits attached to pet ownership. For example, pets are known to help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress and pet owners are thought to make fewer visits to the doctor. In addition, pets help to increase their owner’s activity levels and social engagement.

Loneliness and isolation are two of the major issues affecting older people and pets can have a marked effect in helping to reduce this.

Sadly, at a time when older people can most benefit from this relationship with a pet, they are often separated from them when having to move into sheltered housing or care homes – very few of which will allow pets.

Each year, more than 140,000 older people who have to move into these new environments have no option but to relinquish their much loved pet. Many of these pets fail to find new owners and are euthanised. The effect of this on the owner can be devastating.

The important non-clinical care provided by pets is an issue that the Parliamentary Pet Advisory Committee is spending much time working on, for instance by looking at a care home policy to allow pets to visit their residents.

Veterinary and medical professions were urged to work together to address these issues and the ways in which pets and the human-animal bond can be used to promote enhanced health and wellbeing among the sick, vulnerable, disabled and elderly.

Representatives from numerous charities – all concerned with the use of pets in human wellbeing – attended the event to demonstrate the excellent work they carry out. For example, the Society for Companion Animal Studies, who promote the study of human-companion animal interaction and Pets as Therapy, who provide a pet visiting service in hospices, hospitals and care homes.

Our Special Friends, who support and empower vulnerable human-animal relationships, also attended, along with Medical Detection Dogs, who train medical alert assistance dogs, and numerous other charities who take animals into care settings.

Pets can help to keep humans healthy but it is also important to keep our pets healthy, which NOAH views as one of its prime functions.

 

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