Although ageing comes with physical and emotional health challenges, there are also many ways to address these health concerns. One of these ways is through animal companionship. In fact, numerous studies and experts have revealed that pets are good for the health of the elderly. This is why pet-friendly aged care can be truly beneficial.
In Australia, animal welfare advocates led by the Animal Welfare League Australia (AWLA) have called on aged care providers or facilities to allow residents to keep pets. According to AWLA, there are currently only one in five aged care facilities that do this and the non-profit organisation is urging more to follow suit.
Pet-Friendly Aged Care Facility
Regency Green Multicultural Aged Care in South Australia is one of the facilities in the country that allow residents to maintain contact or live with their pets. To push its pet-friendly focus and efforts, the facility first created an area and off-leash exercise yard where family members who visit the residents can bring their pets in.
A couple of years ago, the facility built its first “pet companion room,” which is now being used and enjoyed by Shirley and her pug Bruce. Another room was also created to cater to a resident with two cats. There are also plans of converting a courtyard into a cat enclosure connected to the room of Irene, another resident who longs to live with her pet cats.
Programs and Efforts for Residents with Pets
The Animal Welfare League (AWL) and social services organisation, UnitingSA, have developed a program that allows several selected cats to visit Regency Green and interact with residents. The program also involves the AWL’s assessment of the pets before they can be considered to live with their owners or the residents in the facility.
Furthermore, the AWL trained UnitingSA staff, developed guidelines, and devised plans and processes related to pet care and residency. These efforts help ensure that the aged care providers, residents, and staff know their responsibilities and what would happen if the owner can no longer care for the pet.
Health Benefits of Living and Bonding with Pets
Shirley is grateful to have her pug as her companion and “roommate” especially in the evening. Irene, who became depressed after being separated from her cats when she started living in Regency Green, recovered and felt relieved when she saw her cats during the visits.
Like them, other aged care residents can also benefit from bonding, socialising, or living with pets. This can help boost heart health, reduce stress, prevent depression, keep them physically active, and improve their overall well-being and quality of life.