Doris Day once said, “There are things you can get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”
This isn’t just an astute observation from a Hollywood legend, it’s also a scientific fact. Research has shown that the simple act of talking to a pet can actually lower the heart rate of the person doing the talking. Meanwhile, Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have discovered that the mere act of petting an animal can release “feel good hormones” like serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin and decrease stress hormones like cortisol. And still more studies have shown that animal interaction can lower blood pressure and even stimulate memories in people with dementia.
The benefits don’t stop there. In senior communities, interactions with pets have been a means to combat loneliness, aid in socialization, increase physical activity, and offer a sense of purpose to older adults.
So why are pets such a miracle pill? Mainly, it’s because they offer unbridled love and companionship, without a side of judgment. Animals love and accept us for who we are, wherever we are in our life journey. And for seniors, this can be crucial to staving off depression and boosting mental and emotional reserve.
Pet therapy is an important part of the services offered to seniors in Hebrew SeniorLife long-term chronic care hospitals and senior living communities. On any given day, you can find a number of furry friends pitter-pattering amongst our seniors. Certified therapy dogs arrive to volunteer with their humans, like beloved volunteer pug Charlie, who was recently featured in The Boston Globe for bringing smiles, laughs, and pug-hugs to patients at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale. We also have dogs certified and trained to work on staff, like Tamari the ministry service dog, who assists Rabbi Karen Landy, a chaplain at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham.
Pet therapy is a crucial component of our volunteer services program. So much so, that we’ve partnered with Dog B.O.N.E.S. Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts to offer pet therapy certification training at our NewBridge campus. Many of our HSL employees have obtained certification for their own dogs, whom they now bring along with them to the office to visit with patients and residents.
So if you’re feeling lonely, anxious, bored, or indifferent, look to a pet to remedy your woes (and lick your nose). And while you’re waiting for your furry fix, don’t forget to follow our new Dogs of HSL Instagram page (@dogsofhsl) so you’ll never miss another precious HSL pup.
Volunteer Opportunities at Hebrew SeniorLife
Become a Hebrew SeniorLife volunteer (with or without your dog). We have many rewarding volunteer opportunities available at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, Hebrew Rehabilitation Center Dedham, and our independent living communities in Dedham, Brookline, Canton, Dedham, Randolph, and Revere. To find an opportunity that matches your interests and skills, contact our Volunteer Department at (617) 363-8421.