Pets and the elderly
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Research around the world has shown the value of pets for older people. A pet is a friend to whom the loneliest person, practically incapable of communication with fellow humans can talk and express affection. People who talk to their pets aren't dotty - often the pets are much nicer than some of the humans they have around them. But not all older people want the responsibility of an animal nor even very much like dogs and cats. When we turn to our nursing home population we find a group with special needs - 4 to 5% but possibly isolated. Pet animals, especially dogs, offered nursing home residents a form of nonthreatening, non-judgemental, reassuring, non-verbal communication and tactile comfort and thus helped to break the vicious cycle of loneliness, helplessness and social withdrawal.
Speech given to the Recreation Association for the Elderly, Adelaide, 7th October 1986 by Adam Graycar, Commissioner for the Ageing. This speech is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/