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Benefits of Pet Therapy for Senior Living Communities

Here at The Kensington, residents are not only allowed to have pets; pets are encouraged to become part of The Kensington family. We recognize their importance as contributors to the psychological and physical well being of our senior family. Senior living communities are recognizing the benefits of pet therapy and are becoming more welcoming to furry friends.

People who have pets typically consider them an integral part of the family. Some even have emotional support animals (ESAs), which are specially trained as mental health companions. Though they are typically dogs or cats, in a humorous New Yorker article, an undercover journalist attempts to bring pretend ESAs (including a pig, a snake, and an alpaca) into exclusive restaurants and shops.

Yet whether or not a pet is designated an ESA, pets provide their human companions with unconditional love and support. This can and does make a huge difference in the lives of seniors who may be lonely, depressed, or dealing with memory loss or other health issues.

Making A Smoother Move into a Senior Living Community

Relocating can be stressful, especially if a senior is leaving a longtime home and neighborhood. Moving into a senior living community with their beloved pet can help a new resident feel right at home in their new assisted living home.

Assisted living communities nationwide recognize that pet therapy enables seniors to live longer, healthier, happier lives. Over the last decade, the number of assisted living communities that welcome pets has expanded along with the aging population.

More than half of all U.S. assisted living facilities now allow residents to bring their own pet to their new home, and more than a third provide a “house pet” for seniors to share, according to the CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities.

At The Kensington Reston, Cricket, whose official title is “Kensington’s Best Friend,” will be on hand to snuggle, warm laps, and keep residents smiling. He lives full-time with our resident, Rennie, and is always walking around the community with his tail wagging!

How Fido and Fluffy (and Cricket) Help Senior Health

The health benefits of pet therapy, whether with a family dog or one that’s loved by the assisted living senior community as a whole, can enhance a senior’s life in myriad ways. Walking a dog is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. Brushing, feeding, and playing with a cat or a dog help those with mild to moderate memory impairment remain engaged — and feel needed. Someone else’s pet can support other residents in the same way.

There is even a creative pet therapy pairing happening at many senior living locations nationwide. Known as the “senior to senior fostering program,” it matches senior dogs with senior residences, providing forever homes for older dogs with older adults who appreciate the companionship and help the animals to feel needed in the assisted living home.

In fact, this situation took place at our sister community, The Kensington Sierra Madre, which was featured on CBS’s Lucky Dog. A dog rescue/training/rehoming specialist matched The Kensington Sierra Madre with an adorable one-year-old Shih Tzu named Kenny (now Kensey!), who is a bundle of love for our seniors. Both Kensey and the residents are thriving since he joined his new home, proving such pairings can indeed be a win-win.

So whatever level of pet companion is appropriate for your loved one, we encourage you to bring the nurturing, healing benefits of pet therapy with your senior family member when they come home to The Kensington with their beloved pet!

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