Love with a Wet Nose: The Important Role of Pets in Senior Living

The Important Role of Pets in Senior Living

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France

According to the Mayo Clinic, The Alzheimer’s Association and other expert sources, there is a growing movement to increase animal and human interactions for health and wellness benefits.

Dr. Edward Creagan of the Mayo Clinic Medical School says, “If pet ownership was a medication, it would be patented tomorrow.” Interactions with pets have been shown to provide special health benefits that are particularly valuable to older adults.

Specifically, time spent with a warm puppy or other pet provides important social engagement and emotional connections that result in better physical and emotional well-being.

Pets Welcome!

“Pets are a highly valued and integral part of the enriching lifestyle we offer to residents of our community,” says Mary Garrity, ADC, Woodhaven Activities Manager at Williamsburg Landing, a leading continuing care retirement community in Williamsburg, VA.

“Our purpose is to enhance lifestyles, not limit them. Therefore, we are very supportive of pets, provided that their owners are able to comply with our pet ownership policy.

“We also have a very active pet therapy program for residents who enjoy animals, but are no longer able to care for them on their own. We recognize that pets not only provide wonderful companionship and unconditional love, but also add to our residents’ happiness and overall health.”

The Intrinsic Value of Pets

In addition to making us feel more comfortable and relaxed, research studies have identified specific ways pets and pet therapy can improve our lives. The benefits include:

  1. Boosting the immune system
  2. Lowering blood pressure
  3. Increasing socialization and verbal and/or nonverbal communication through positive interaction with the animal
  4. Decreasing anxiety and expressions of emotional and physical pain
  5. Providing purposeful activity and reducing boredom and apathy
  6. Increasing positive social behavior
  7. Providing new opportunities for love, attention and happiness
  8. Increasing the use of fine and gross motor skills when walking or grooming the animal
  9. Opportunities to laugh and enjoy the animal’s behaviors and attention

Karin Winegar, author of Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform probably explains the human-pet relationship best, saying, “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.”

Pet-Friendly Living at Williamsburg Landing

Adds Ms. Garrity, “In addition to welcoming pets of our independent living and assisted living residents, our active pet visitation program brings happiness to other residents who enjoy the company of friendly animals.

“We have several wonderful pet therapy dogs that are part of our Williamsburg Landing family: Angel,who has been visiting our residents for over 10 years; Cody who has been visiting here for three years; Zoey, who visits periodically; and Sharkie,who is a familiar face on Fridays.

“In addition, the 4-H Club brings their therapy dogs that are part of an intergenerational program. And, we have had the Teeny Tiny Farm here with small farm animals for our residents to feed and pet. The Virginia Living Museum and Wildlife Center has also brought animals to us. And last but not least, we have a dog show and a blessing of the animals.

“We encourage family members of residents to visit us often with their dogs and cats. We also have an aquarium in our memory care neighborhood that calms and relaxes our resident’s with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“Without a doubt, man’s best friend and other animals are a key part of our culture of life enrichment here at beautiful Williamsburg Landing.”

Note: If you would like to bring in a pet therapy dog for a visit, please be aware that they must be certified. You can fill out a volunteer application and go through training with our Human Resources department. For the safety of our residents, the dog’s medical record and shot record must be available. Once cleared, you are welcome to visit all the residents in Woodhaven who would enjoy a visit.

“Silver Saddles” Brings Joy to Loved Ones with Memory Loss

One of our more unique programs, called “Silver Saddles,” enables our residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to enjoy interaction with horses at nearby Dream Catchers Therapeutic Riding Center. Here, with their families’ permission and under close supervision, residents are able to participate in grooming, walking and riding opportunities, depending on their capabilities and preferences.

“Silver Saddles has been a highly successful program,” says Ms. Garrity. “Our most recent group had 11 participants, the oldest of which is 93. Our residents love the experience and have formed quite a bond, often cheering each another on. Also, many of their family members join us each week to join in the fun.

“To quote Jim, an 82-year old resident, ‘You give me confidence that I can still do things.’ His wife and daughter tell us that Jim now insists on buttoning his own shirts, and his gait has improved so much that even other residents comment on his lack of shuffling. 

“Jim is just one example of how Silver Saddles has brought joy and excitement to our loved ones with memory loss.”

Welcome to Williamsburg Landing 

Looking for a vibrant, engaging and fulfilling way of life? If so, you’ll find it at Williamsburg Landing.

Nestled on 137 wooded acres along the serene banks of College Creek in Williamsburg, Va., Williamsburg Landing is the premier, not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) serving Williamsburg and its surrounding areas since 1985. With one visit, you’ll understand what makes Williamsburg Landing so special.

Williamsburg Landing is an ideal blend of beautiful landscaping and elegant, Colonial architecture. It invites residents to become part of its vibrant, active lifestyle and rest-assured in its award-winning medical care. It eases worries with maintenance-free homes and apartments with resort-style amenities and services. The community thrives with energetic, involved and friendly people who love to live here and the warmth of dedicated, committed professionals who love to work here.

With a past rich in tradition and a future filled with promise, Williamsburg Landing is the perfect place to call home – for today and tomorrow. 

To learn more or schedule a tour, please contact us today!