When you hear someone is being treated for depression, what likely comes to mind is counseling and medication. Most of us think these two treatments are the keys to overcoming the disorder. One overlooked avenue of helping to heal the mind, body and spirit just might be by making friends with a furry, four-legged creature. Adopting a pet has proven to be a successful way to treat depression among older adults.

How Pets Help Combat Depression in Seniors

Having a four-legged friend to kick around with can help a senior loved one boost their mood in a few different ways:

1.     Unconditional love. Animals can be there for us in ways people can’t. They listen to our sorrows, share our joys and keep our secrets. If an older loved one has experienced loss, a pet can be an ideal solution for helping them to heal. They have someone to love and care for who will love them back unconditionally.

2.     They get us moving. A senior who may be reluctant to take a walk around the block on their own may be willing to put in a lap or two with their furry friend. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for older adults and is often recommended to help overcome and prevent depression.

3. Pets are social. Pets attract attention. If an older loved one has a pet they routinely take for a walk, it won’t be long before the two of them have made new friends. Children will especially be drawn to your senior family member if they have a furry companion. These new friendships can help your loved one feel more connected to the world around them. That can help them fight off depression.

Added benefits of having a pet are that they help to decrease both stress and blood pressure. Researchers agree that the simple act of stroking a pet’s fur can help calm people down.

The American Humane Association has more information on Adoption & Pet Care that you might find helpful if you are considering finding a furry friend for a senior loved one.