Growing Together: The Healing Benefits of Pet Therapy for Senior Living CommunitiesDecember 10, 2015 | Canyon Creek
Gilda Radner said, "I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive." And it's true: the love from a pet is truly like none other. Animal companions give humans unconditional love and comfort; even the simple act of petting a dog or cat can invoke a sense of calm and wellbeing. This is why, as a part of our activities program, we incorporate pet therapy for seniors.Not only do we encourage our residents to own their own pets, but we also offer regularly-scheduled pet therapy sessions.
Our active senior living community in Cottonwood Heights, UT, values creating lasting friendships and human bonds, planning regular activities that connect residents with other residents in the community, and their family and friends.However, aging naturally comes with a sense of loneliness and anxiety, and it's vital to incorporate activities designed to ease these feelings. Studies show that animal-assisted therapy helps seniors feel less lonely, and we have seen firsthand how the presence of a furry friend uplifts the well-being of our senior residents.
With our pet therapy program, our residents can pet, walk, feed, and groom a number of dogs and cats under our care. We have found pet therapy to be especially helpful for our residents faced with the early onset of dementia, helping to lift their mood and invoke a sense of well-being.
In honor of our love of pets at Canyon Creek Senior Living, we wanted to take a moment to share a touching story about our late and beloved community pet Molly.
Molly belonged to one of our residents. Out of respect for her family we will refer to this resident as Sarah. To Sarah, little Molly was her everything. Molly lived with Sarah until her passing. When Sarah passed away her family planned to put Molly to sleep; Molly was 13 years old and was very attached to her owner. However, upon the blessing of our former Executive Director Sandi Johnson, Molly returned to live at Canyon Creek Senior Living and became our community pet.
Molly's bed was placed behind the front desk of our building. Whenever a guest would walk through the doors, Molly would greet them. Eventually, every family member friend and health care professional who came to visit would look for Molly to give her a pat on the head before going on their way.
In addition to greeting guests, Molly would tromp the halls visiting all of the residents but mostly the ones who would offer her treats. The residents who lived on the second and third floor of the building would come down with a daily treat, and would sometimes even save a bite from their lunch or dinner to give to her. At one point, we had to ask people not to feed her because she was getting so fat! Even though the residents found it tough to resist her sweet puppy dog eyes, they resisted.
When Canyon Creek had events, Molly was always there to add to the festivities; she had an outfit for every occasion! The residents would just giggle with glee when they saw her.She walked in parades, hunted for Easter Eggs at our annual hunt, and attended our Rock-N-Roll party and our annual holiday party--you name it, no matter, what she was there! We even hosted a yearly birthday party, a "Gotcha Day" for Molly.The residents would crowd into our small activity room to enjoy cake and ice cream and sing "Happy Birthday" to her.
When the residents were feeling blue, Molly was always there. For the residents who were unable to visit Molly, staff would take Molly upstairs to visit them. Molly was a joyful distraction from many of the gloomy realities our residents face. She offered serenity when they were anxious, a gentle kiss when they were ill, and a cuddle when they were passing.
Not only did the residents love Molly, but so did our senior living staff . Molly was loved by all; in fact, when you entered our building, her headshot sat among those of the managers in our entryway. Her title? "Everyone's Best Friend."
Molly provided the community with joy and unconditional love. Molly's time on this Earth ended in September of 2014, but those who have been a part of our community for many years still talk about her. Some of Molly's adventures and photos can be found on her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sweetie.molly.
At Canyon Creek Senior Living, we are committed to comforting and nurturing each and every one of our residents. Pet therapy is just one of the many activities we provide as part of our activities program. If you are interested in learning more about our active senior living community, we are always available to answer any questions you may have.
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