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The Benefits of Companion Animals for Older People [Guest Blog]

Guest post by Jack Bird, Wild Science

It might seem obvious to some that playing with a pet can make you happier, but their impact on humans can go above and beyond that. Animal workshops for older people are becoming increasingly popular, and a look at the actual data behind the effect of companion animals on older adults produces some impressive results.

Uppsala University, based in Sweden, ran an extensive study to see if there was any link between dog petting and anxiety. The results showed that, upon stroking a dog, the body releases a hormone called oxytocin. Widely referred to as ‘the love hormone,’ it is produced by the brain in the hypothalamus and is known for anxiety relief.

On the subject of anxiety, The Alzheimer’s Society actually encourages older people to keep animals, stating that dogs can help reduce agitation whilst improving social skills and health. One example of this is that dog owners, more often than not, have to walk their companion outside every day; simply going outside is a proven method of combating depression and anxiety. Animal owners also tend to be more active because of this, and even a short walk with a dog can stimulate the body enough to help people cope with physical illnesses.

Owning an animal also cultivates a sense of purpose and bonding, which is highly effective at combating mental health issues that pose an issue to many older people. However, results can be seen even in brief interactions with animals – which is where the previously mentioned animal workshops thrive.

Companies like Wild Science have been bringing animals to care facilities for years now, armed with a variety of mammals and reptiles for the residents to interact with. Supporting the aforementioned research, their website says that animal therapy can improve:

  • Self esteem
  • Verbal communication
  • Motor skill
  • Joint movement
  • Social engagement

Joshua Jameson, the managing director of Wild Science, says: “Not only will everyone get the opportunity to touch, handle and interact with every animal – but also learn more about them too.” He believes that people “… won’t get this level of experience from books or television alone, and Wild Science’s hands-on approach helps ingrain information with an exciting experience.”

It is true that this level of interaction goes beyond what a book or television show can offer, and the variety of mental health benefits that animal therapy can provide make the rise of animal workshops easy to understand.

Companion Animals are an integral sub-theme of the 14th Global Conference on Ageing, under the larger conference theme of ‘Enabling Functional Ability.’ To learn more about this theme, and the 14th Global Conference on Ageing, visit

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