Healthy Living Blog,
News & Events

April 11, 2023


Pawsitively Healing: The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors in honor of National Pet Day

As we age, our physical, emotional, and mental well-being can be impacted by various factors including isolation and loneliness. However, there is a furry solution that can help alleviate these issues - pet therapy. Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a growing trend being used in senior living communities to improve the quality of life for older adults. The use of pets as a form of therapy has shown significant benefits, including reducing blood pressure, increasing socialization, and decreasing depression and anxiety. Let’s explore the benefits of pet therapy for seniors and provide a list of the best pets for senior living communities.

According to the National Institute of Health, research shows that pets can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, by increasing levels of oxytocin and endorphins in the brain, which are the hormones responsible for making us feel happy and relaxed. Additionally, pet ownership has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and can even help seniors with dementia by providing a calming effect that can reduce agitation and improve their mood.

Pets provide a sense of companionship and a reason to get up and move around, even if it's just to walk their dog or refill their cat's water bowl. This increased activity can lead to improved physical health, helping to reduce the risk of falls and other injuries.


When it comes to choosing the right pet for a senior living community, there are a few things to consider. For example, the pet must be low-maintenance and easy to care for. Here is a list of the best pets for retirement communities:

1. Cats - Cats are low-maintenance and can be excellent companions for seniors who live in small, indoor spaces. They are playful and affectionate, which can bring joy to seniors' lives.


2. SmallDogs - Small dogs are ideal for seniors who want a companion, but may not be able to handle a larger or more high-energy dog. Small dogs are easy to take care of and do not take up too much space. They offer constant companionship and are a great source of comfort.


3. Birds- Birds can provide companionship and are low-maintenance. Birds areintelligent and social animals. They offer beautiful melodies, which can be relaxing and entertaining.


4. Fish- Watching fish swim can be calming and therapeutic, and aquariums are easy to maintain.


5. Therapy Dogs - Some senior living communities have therapy dogs that come in regularly to provide affection and companionship to residents.


Let's take a closer look at some of these benefits:

1) Lower Stress and Depression: Pets can act as a natural stress buster, helping seniors manage their emotional and mental health. Studies have shown that petting an animal can significantly reduce cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress.


2) Improved Physical Health: Regular interactions with pets, such as walking a dog or playing with a cat, can increase physical activity levels in older adults, thereby helping to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve other health parameters.


3) Sense of Purpose: Pets can give seniors a sense of purpose, something to care for and look after. Having a pet as a companion can provide seniors with a sense of responsibility and meaning, which can have a positive impact on their overall well-being.


4) Increased Socialization: Pets can also act as conversation starters for older adults, helping them to feel connected to the outside world. Pets can encourage socialization with other people who share a similar love for animals, such as other pet owners, volunteers at animal shelters, and veterinarians.


5) Emotional Support: Animals can provide emotional support to seniors who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or loneliness. Pets can offer anon-judgmental ear to listen to, and they can also offer unconditional love and support to their owners.

Whether it's a dog, cat, bird, or even a fish, pets offer companionship, affection, and a listening ear, making them an excellent resource for older adults looking to improve their overall well-being. Pet therapy is an excellent way to promote emotional and physical well-being in seniors living in assisted living communities.


For seniors who want a furry companion, here are the best small dog breeds for those living in a senior living community and why:

1. French Bulldog: French Bulldogs are a popular choice for seniors due to their easy going and affectionate nature. They are small in size, manageable to train, and are known for being great apartment dogs. They are also known for their low exercise needs, which makes them perfect for those who may have mobility issues. The French Bulldog is a loyal and loving companion, making them perfect for seniors.


2. Shih Tzu: The Shih Tzu is a gentle and friendly toy breed, known for its playful personality. They are easy to train, make excellent lap dogs, and are well-suited for apartment living. They have low exercise needs, which makes them perfect for seniors who may have mobility issues. Shih Tzus are also known for their long silky coats, which require regular grooming.


3. Miniature Poodle: Miniature Poodles are an excellent breed for seniors who want a small dog with a lot of personality. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions. They are also hypoallergenic and have low shedding, making them perfect for seniors with allergies. Miniature Poodles are active and require daily exercise but are also happy to curl up on the couch.


4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a friendly and affectionate toy breed and is an excellent choice for seniors who want a small dog with a lot of personality. They are easy to train, enthusiastic about play, and love spending time with their humans. Cavaliers are known for being gentle and patient, making them perfect for seniors.


5. Chihuahua: The Chihuahua is an excellent choice for seniors who want a small dog with a big personality. They are known for their loyalty and devotion to their owners. They have low exercise needs, making them perfect for seniors who may have mobility issues. Chihuahuas are also easy to take care of, making them ideal for seniors who want a low-maintenance pet.


In conclusion, small dog breeds are a great option for seniors living in a retirement community. They provide companionship, and emotional support, and can even help seniors stay active and engaged. The breeds listed above are just a few of the many small dog breeds that are ideal for apartment living. When choosing a dog, it's important to consider your lifestyle, living environment, and the dog's temperament and exercise needs. Additionally, it's important to remember that owning a pet is a big responsibility, and seniors should ensure they are physically and financially able to care for their furry companion. When chosen and cared for responsibly, a small dog can bring a lot of joy and happiness.



  1. Your guide for the best dogs for seniors

      2. The Best Dog Breeds for Seniors

      3. 5 Best Dog Breeds for Seniors:


Download PDF

Ready to Schedule a Tour?

Contact Us Today