Pets make us feel safe, accepted, and happy. Their devotion and unconditional love boosts our mental and physical health.
During times of crisis or major stress, such as unemployment or prolonged illness, pets are an anchor or stable force that helps us cope. For senior citizens, a pet supplies companionship and affection, but also security and protection. Older adults who are pet owners are likely to be more alert, require fewer trips to the doctor, and are less likely to suffer from depression and loneliness.
In a study conducted by Dr. Karen Allen of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, stockbrokers who were given a pet reduced by half the increase in blood pressure from stress. Although the researchers were pleased with the results, they weren't surprised. The results supported what they already knew: It is beneficial to be with a pet in times of stress.
Results of the study appeared in various media and publications:
The Biology Gateways Human Circulatory System activities on Blood Pressure and Circulation and Effect of Exercise introduce how the circulatory system works. (Activities require Logal Express. Get a free trial subscription now.)
Activities or Therapy
Animal-assisted therapy on the other hand is goal oriented and is designed to meet criteria as part of an overall treatment program.
The benefits of both activity and therapy:
The organization sponsors several programs including the National Service Dog Center (NSDC), which provides animals trained to discriminate sounds such as phones, smoke alarms, and sirens for those with hearing impairments. And for individuals with motor impairments, a service animal may retrieve items, close or open doors, carry items in a backpack, or even pull a wheelchair.
Working with a team comprised of trainers, volunteers, speech, physical, or occupational therapists, and perhaps behavioral specialists, the rider gains physical and psychological benefits from the movement and gait of a horse.
Riding consists of a standard lesson in combination with other movements to improve functioning and skills. The benefits of therapeutic riding include:
There are over 500 therapeutic riding centers around the country. A good resource is the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NAHRA). Their site includes a directory of riding centers as well as FAQs and links to other organizations.
The peaceful nature of an aquarium has such a calming or soothing effect that just watching a tank full of fish can lower blood pressure temporarily. More and more fish tanks are finding their way into waiting rooms, nursing homes, schools, and libraries.