United States President Ronald Reagan observed that “the best thing for the inside of a man is to be on the outside of a horse.”
He could well have been talking about any sort of animal, even those with a digital approach to life.
Animals provide a myriad of benefits for people and that particularly includes those who are getting older. Studies abound that show the health benefits of having companion animals in one’s life. These include physical fitness, gained from taking a pet for a walk, through to increased mental wellbeing.
Pet owners have been found to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure than non-pet owners. Across the whole Animal Kingdom it’s clear that dogs, and cats, bring out the best in people helping them to stay more active and retain their ability to perform daily activities for longer.
The presence of a pooch increases self-esteem and life satisfaction, and dramatically lowers loneliness and rates of depression. So it’s no surprise, then, that pet owners tend to live longer.
Seal the deal
In many situations it’s not practical to have pets—at least the ‘living’ kind. Technology has come to the rescue with ‘sociable’ companion robots that deliver comparable benefits to helping people to age well.
At the Selwyn Foundation a small “colony” of baby robotic Canadian Harp seals have taken up residence. Featuring a variety of sensors throughout their fluffy, anti-bacterial fur, with touch-sensitive whiskers, and a complex system of silent motors, the seals respond to interaction with life-like noises and movements.
Residents benefit from the companionship and were more inclined to talk to care partners as a result of the interaction with the seal. Studies are currently underway to investigate how ‘seal time’ might help people with advanced dementia and other neurological challenges.
For people living with dementia, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and confusion are common. Pet therapy can help reduce these symptoms and remove some of the anger, helplessness, and frustration experienced by those living with dementia as their condition progresses.