Canine Companionship Available to Seniors

by Jerrold Bartholomew

I recently had a conversation with an elderly woman who lamented that her living circumstances did not allow her to have a pet. Isolation and loneliness can be a very real problem for many seniors who are often without family nearby or even pets for companionship.

One partial solution to this problem is offered by groups like Therapy Dogs International. Therapy dogs are certified according to rigorous standards to have the proper temperament for visiting the elderly and disabled in senior housing, assisted living, hospitals and nursing homes. The unconditional love of a dog has an undeniable therapeutic effect on many people. A UCLA medical studyshowed that trained Assistance Therapy dogs, visiting severely ill cardiac patients in intensive care, lowered their stress and anxiety and their heart and lung pressure significantly.”

There are several animal therapy groups operating here in Michigan. The Michigan section of The Land of Pure Gold Foundation (click here for web addresses of specific therapy dog groups in Michigan and here for information on the foundation and cute pictures of golden retrievers) provides links to several groups, including Dr. Paws and OATS (Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles), that provide animal therapy. Interestingly, OATS also offers horse therapy for a variety of people with special needs.

I am personally interested in getting my golden retriever, Murphy (pictured), started in therapy dog training since he is so calm and sweet, and will sit to be petted almost indefinitely. For anyone else who is interested in pursuing certification for a dog, there is a frequently updated calendar of therapy dog training and certification events here for Michigan. For a directory by state, you can click here.

Anyone connected with an assisted living center, nursing home, hospital, adult foster care or senior center interested in having therapy dogs visit residents can reach Therapy Dogs International here. In Michigan, you can contact Therapaws, Dr. Paws, or West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc.

UPDATE: You should also visit this page at The Land of Pure Gold Foundation. Click around and enjoy.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: