Many residents of assisted living facilities may feel a sense of isolation, loneliness, and a longing for connection as they navigate a new community, new environment, and new routine. As assisted living caregivers look for ways to help residents stay engaged and be comforted and supported, therapy animals have emerged as true heroes, offering a wide array of physical and emotional benefits.

Trained therapy animals—including dogs, cats, rabbits, and even llamas—have proven time and again that their presence goes beyond mere companionship. Here are the top benefits of therapy animals for people in assisted living facilities.

Stress Reduction and Mood Elevation

The simple act of petting or interacting with a therapy animal triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that boosts feelings of happiness. Therapy animals provide a natural and joyous way to alleviate stressors, significantly enhancing overall mood. Engaging with therapy animals can also have a calming effect on the nervous system, helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Social Interaction

One of the challenges in assisted living is the potential for social isolation. Therapy animals break down barriers by acting as conversation starters. Residents naturally engage in dialogue with fellow handlers, residents, staff members and visitors, as these animals become the common focus of attention.

Emotional Connections

Animals have an uncanny ability to evoke memories and emotions. Many seniors have fond memories of their own pets, and interacting with therapy animals can trigger these memories and spark meaningful conversations about their lives.

Cognitive Stimulation

Engaging with therapy animals can also provide cognitive stimulation. Following routines, remembering the animals’ names, and even participating in basic training exercises offer residents the opportunity to exercise their cognitive functions.

Reduced Feelings of Loneliness

Therapy animals provide a source of companionship and unconditional love. The nonjudgmental nature of animals helps residents feel valued and cared for, reducing feelings of loneliness and creating a sense of emotional connection that is vital for psychological well-being.

We offer many opportunities for our Suite Living residents to engage with therapy animals. These furry friends bring joy, love and a renewed sense of purpose to residents, enriching their lives in deep, heartwarming and truly transformative ways.