Sunset Stories

Companion Animals and the Benefits They Provide

Posted by Gayle Young on Mar 6, 2018 8:55:53 AM

As many people know, animals are capable of incredible things. Whether they are saving lives as integral members of a police force, guiding the visually impaired through their daily routines, or showering those around them with unconditional affection, animals positively impact their human companions in ways that we often overlook.

So it should come as no surprise that there are many benefits to allowing care community residents to have pets reside with them. Clinical studies have shown that elders living in residential facilities with animals exhibit less stress than those who do not have a companion pet. Overall wellness is heightened for dog and cat owners, and their quality of life improves as a result.

Human contact with animals triggers an increase in serotonin production, causing a "feel-good" effect and making heart rate and stress levels drop. Lower blood pressure, increased physical activity, and reduced cholesterol have also been linked to pet ownership.

In addition to the numerous health benefits that pet ownership presents for elders, the routine care that dogs and cats require provides structure for the everyday lives of their caregivers. Pet care requires considerable attention and movement, which gives elder caregivers incentive to be up and active to provide for their four-legged friends.

Research also shows that animals give their caregivers a sense of purpose—something that is important during all life stages. That feeling of being needed, in conjunction with all the health benefits that animals provide their caregivers, perfectly showcases why allowing residents in care communities to have pets is beneficial.

“The move to residential care can present challenges for many people,” says Vicky Bartlett, president and CEO of Sunset Communities. “At Sunset, we know being able to bring along a beloved dog or cat helps ease the transition immensely.”

So, then, why do some care facilities choose to prohibit pets?

One reason is that not all residents like being around animals. Out of respect for those individuals, many residential care facilities disallow dogs and cats.

Another reason pets are often off limits is because of the extra care they require. Some elders might struggle to properly provide for their pets, whose care could then become a burden on the facility’s staff.

While we recognize there are potential pitfalls in allowing animals in residential care communities, we believe the positives of pet companionship far outweigh the negatives. That’s why, at Sunset Communities, we make sure that both you and your furry companions feel welcome.

Topics: Independent Living, Long-term Care, Residential Care, Senior Housing, Senior Living, Why Sunset?, Pets