Monday, September 18, 2017

The Benefits of Companion Animals for Assisted Living Residents

It’s important for people to continue to share bonds with animals as they enter their golden years. For over thirty years, cats and dogs have been an integral part of Sunrise Senior Living communities, allowing seniors to maintain the comfort and companionship of a pet. Community animals encourage residents to stay physically active, promote socialization and even offer health benefits.

Residents decide how involved they want to be. Many take turns sharing walking, feeding and play time responsibilities with fellow residents, and in some communities, residents become the official dog walkers. Pets help make socializing easier for residents — they promote interaction with other people by helping them leave their rooms or homes.

Besides providing comfort and companionship, community animals also offer health benefits. Studies have shown that pets provide benefits including: lower blood pressure; lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as healthier heart rates; increased physical activity that helps promote healthier joints and flexibility; reduced stress levels. Even talking or cuddling with a pet helps ease chronic pain from arthritis or migraines. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, seniors with companion animals are more active, cope better with stress and are healthier overall than their pet-less counterparts.

Our communities offer pet therapy programs to help residents with memory loss issues since it has been shown that pets may also help increase brain activity, which could assist with symptoms of depression. 

Sunrise’s Pet Program not only benefits the residents, but can also save the lives of dogs and cats at shelters.  Many companion animals living in a Sunrise community are saved from local shelters and may be considered seniors themselves. Older pets are often passed over at shelters for younger dogs or puppies, but Sunrise considers older animals a better fit for their communities since their calm demeanor is well-suited for residents. For example, Snoopy, an 11-year-old lab mix is one of those senior animals who has benefitted from this program.  Just a couple years ago he was homeless and now he is a full-time resident of Sunrise in Raleigh, North Carolina where he spends his days welcoming guests and residents around the front lobby and concierge desk. We also provide homes for special needs animals like Emma, a blind and deaf pug who now spends her days receiving TLC from the residents of her community in Columbia, Maryland.

The community becomes a home for our pets and they are permitted to roam. They’re welcome to spend the night in a resident’s room and we often hear about how community pets pick a different room to sleep in each night. However, some of our community pets are known to have a favorite resident with whom they choose to snuggle. 

Sunrise also offers residents the option to bring their own pets when they move in, which can help ease the transition of moving to a residential community.  As long as a resident is comfortable with caring for their pet on their own and their pet is an appropriate fit for the community, most four-legged friends are welcome.  Some residents have even brought along iguanas, rabbits and birds.

There are so many benefits to having animals living in senior communities. Families can feel at ease helping a loved one move to a senior living community knowing that they will have the love and companionship of a furry friend. 

To learn more about the Pets Program, click here. You can also follow Sunrise on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest (there’s a whole board dedicated to pets,) or check out The Sunrise Blog’s Pets category for real community pet stories.
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