The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative and the National Council on Aging have published a new guide to assist senior centers in implementing animal programmes.
There’s a large and growing body of evidence on the value of animals (especially dogs and other companion animals) in combating obesity, loneliness, mental health issues and inspiring memory recall in dementia patients. In the western world, we also have a growing population of senior citizens and so there’s a strong rationale for rolling out animal programs in senior centers.
The guide cites real-life policy examples and literature in an easy-to-read guide.
Key recommendations on getting started include:
• Establish clear and measurable goals for your senior center
• Develop policies, protocols, and training programs for staff, volunteers, and animals
• Gain acceptance of your program and ensure participant awareness of policies and programming, including the benefits
• Assess risk and develop appropriate procedures to mitigate risk
• Measure successes and failures of your programs through record keeping, questionnaires, and other research
Back in the late 1990s, my Labrador Ebony and I were a therapy team at a local rest home as part of Canine Friends. I saw first hand the faces of our human friends who looked forward to our visits, with conversations about pets they had in their lives. The power of a dog sitting at their feet was strong!
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand