Pets help the elderly, especially those receiving aged care…

February 23, 2018

Parisian author and poet, Anatole France once wrote: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

The benefits of having a pet and pet therapy have been exhaustively studied for years and the conclusion is simple: pets are good for you, and especially if you are in aged care or receiving in-home care.

Aged care sector urged to embrace pet friendly policy

The Commonwealth’s new Aged Care Quality Standards is urging the aged care sector to embrace pet-friendly services that allow the elderly to remain with their own animals for as long as possible.

“Australia’s pet ownership rate (63%) is the third-highest in the world, just behind the United States (65%) and New Zealand (64%) and the proportion of Australians aged over 65 is continuing to grow,” reported Richard Mussell, President of the Animal Welfare League of Australia.

In Canada, a substantial study by the Chief of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, Professor Parminder Raina surveyed 1,054 elderly citizens aged over 65.

Positives of having a pet

The study revealed that pet owners are more able to maintain activities of daily living (ADL) over a one year period than those without pets. One of the key findings was that dogs in particular help keep people active, provide a routine and a reason to get up in the morning (1).

Similar findings came from a Japanese study which investigated the relationship between pet ownership and the level of daily activity (used as a measure of general health) in elderly women living at home.

They found that there was a positive correlation between pet ownership and the level of instrumental activity of daily living (IADL).

The researcher, Professor Saito and the team concluded that it is possible that keeping a companion animal may be linked to better overall health in the elderly (2).

And here in Australia, a study by Patricia Crowley-Robinson, Douglas Fenwick and Judith Blackshaw found that 18 months after acquiring a whippet, residents of three Australian nursing homes had reduced tension and confusion and reported less fatigue (3).

In general, the results of pet therapy have been very positive, revealing many benefits including:

  • Decreased blood pressure and stress
  • Improved communication and reminiscence
  • Many people who are normally unresponsive to other therapies may ‘brighten up’ and ‘chat’ with a pet.
  • Pets may motivate and encourage the elderly to stay healthy and exercise, giving them a feeling of being ‘needed’.
  • Motor skills may improve with the assistance of an animal trained for pet therapy.

“Maintaining the human-animal bond has proven health benefits for the owner and their pet. It also reduces animal surrender rates to the re-homing, shelter and care services of rescued animals,”  stated Richard Mussell, President of the Animal Welfare League Australia.

So, the results are in, a pet can be a positive addition to any home, especially one with elderly residents.

Did you find this article informative?

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About Oxley Home Care:

Oxley Home Care, established in 2006, is a family-owned Sydney company and is an Approved Government Provider for aged care services, specialising in Dementia Care.

Oxley Home Care provides Dementia Care, Private Care, Home Care, Nursing, Veterans Home Care and Allied Health to enable people to live a quality life independently in their own home and stay connected to their local community.

For more information, please feel free to call Oxley Home Care on 1300 993 591.


  1. Raina, P, 1995, ‘The impact of pet ownership on the functional transitions among elderly’, 1995, Animals, Health and Quality of Life: 7th International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions, Geneva, September.
  2. Saito, TM, & Okada, et al, 2001, ‘Relationship between keeping a companion animal and instrumental activity of daily living’ (IADL). A study of Japanese elderly living at home in Satomi Village’, Nippon Koshu Eisei Zasshi, vol. 48, no.1, pp. 47-55.
  3. Crowley-Robinson, P, Fenwick, DC, & Blackshaw, JK, 1996, ‘A long term study of elderly people in nursing homes with visiting and resident dogs’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 47, pp. 137-148.
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