Pet-friendly Retirement Communities Offer Positive Mental Health Benefits for Pet Lovers
If you’ve ever had a pet in your life, you’re familiar with the incomparable bond that you had with your furry friend. There is significant research that backs the fact that as humans, there are physical and mental benefits of having a pet of any sort. According to CertaPet, there are approximately 81.5 million people in the United States who suffer from depression, anxiety or PTSD. Having an animal or access to an animal gives us support in confronting our fears, handling anxious situations, and eliminating loneliness.
At Senior Living Communities, pets are welcomed to join their owners because they are a member of the family. All of our communities are pet friendly to ensure that our Members don’t have to leave behind their furry friends. Our dedicated staff understands the important bond that forms between owner and animal so breaking up that bond isn’t an option.
Research shows that owning a pet provides both physical and mental health benefits for seniors. Animal ownership can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase physical activity. For seniors, loneliness can be deafening and when they have an animal to care for, it can help create purpose for their life. Having a pet can implement a routine and allow the owner to provide for another person. An animal needs care, love, and quality time which, for humans, can satisfy that feeling of caring and investing time in another life.
Animals are beneficial to humans as trusted companions, family pets, therapy animals, and emotional support animals. Each of these require different levels of training/qualifications and certifications. While seniors are looking for a suitable retirement community, understanding if pets or service animals are allowed is important. Below you’ll learn about the different types of training and certifications.
Therapy Animals don’t help their owner with daily tasks or assisting with limitations, their goal is to provide psychological or physiological therapy to all types of individuals. These types of animals are not covered under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) like Service Animals, so you will find them in places like senior living communities, schools, hospitals, airports and places of similar nature. Therapy animals that are non-aggressive, calm, comforting, friendly, patient, and task oriented will be successful in the role of a therapy animal. Obtaining the proper certifications, training, and vaccinations is important to allow a therapy animal to be brought into these facilities. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs and AKC Canine Good Citizen programs offer this type of training.
After an animal has received the proper certifications and training to become an official therapy animal, they begin their work. There are a wide range of benefits that are associated with Therapy Animals and for each person it could be completely different. A Therapy Animal helps their owners with their anxiety levels, fine motor skills, improve their social skills, increase their confidence in themselves because they are able to care for something. These are a few examples of benefits and a variety of people can benefit from owning an animal who has been trained to eliminate stress in their owner’s life. Those who have dealt with addiction, cancer, heart disease, Dementia, are on the Autism spectrum and other chronic/lifelong conditions all benefit from this training and these animals.
Emotional Support Animals
While Therapy and Service Animals are most commonly dogs, an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) does not have any limitations in species. An ESA will be recommended or prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to provide therapeutic support to an individual. Identifying the need for an ESA by a therapist or psychiatrist could make a big difference in the life of an individual. Mental disorders can be debilitating to those living with them on a daily basis and the comfort and support these animals can provide is life changing. Emotional Support Animals, similar to Therapy Animals, do not have legal protections under the ADA but Emotional Support Animals do not require specific training. They do have Federal Protection when it comes to housing, and are recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHAct, 42 U.S.C.A. 3601 et seq.) protecting the owner and animal from being evicted or denied housing. For this to be taken into account, there does need to be a medical recommendation and proper paperwork to eliminate the chance of falsification of documents. There are many resources online that claim to provide qualified, legitimate, and simplified ESA certifications that can be mailed to you and that documentation is not acceptable under the housing regulations. Obtaining the proper paperwork and medical recommendations make it the safest process for yourself and your animal.
Emotional Support Animals bring comfort and joy to their new owners. Their owners are in some way experiencing a level of stress or anxiety that has been required the prescription from a medical professional. Since these animals do not require particular training to deem them in this position, they are going to be specifically sought out for this purpose. There are certain breeds of dogs that are recommended to adopt because of their characteristics. This does not mean that a mixed breed dog, or other breeds would not fulfill their purpose.
- Labrador Retrievers
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
The health benefits that come with owning an Emotional Support Animal are similar that a Therapy Animals. Their purpose is to bring joy, provide a calming presence, and reduce loneliness. Those who experience chronic stress and anxiety begin to experience lower cortisol levels and their heart rate going down. If someone is experiencing loneliness and depression, these animals provide a sense of purpose, eliminating that feeling of sadness. Owning a pet comes with responsibilities such as taking them on walks, doing to pet-training, and simply being in public more than before.
ADA Service Animals
An ADA Service Animal provides their owner with a level of safety while they are in their presence. These are highly trained animals who have been trained to fulfill their human’s limitations due to a disability. They are useful to those who are blind, prone to seizures, deaf, have diabetes, autism or other limitations. These animals go where their owners go, being the support system, they require. The ADA has regulations in place that allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places. Legally, staff can ask the following questions to verify if they are a service dog:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
These are animals that are task oriented which makes it important that they are not disturbed in the public. You may notice these dogs wearing vests that read “Do Not Pet” on them, it is not because they are aggressive, but rather they are not to be distracted from the important task that they are working on.
When it comes to adopting a pet, do the proper research if you’re adopting an animal if you have the intent for them to become a Therapy Animal, ESA, or Service Animal and take the proper legal steps to obtain documentation.
Senior Living Communities – a premier retirement company with locations in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina and South Carolina welcomes animals. The company does not require specific certifications for animals and all pets are allowed. The benefits that animals provide make them an important part of your family and one that shouldn’t be left behind when transitioning to senior housing.