Growing Together: The Healing Benefits of Pet Therapy for Senior Living Communities
Gilda Radner said, “I
think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me
they are the role model for being alive.” And it’s true: the love from a pet is
truly like none other. Animal companions give humans unconditional love and
comfort; even the simple act of petting a dog or cat can invoke a sense of calm
and wellbeing. This is why, as a part of our activities program, we incorporate
therapy for seniors.
Not only do we encourage our residents to own their own pets, but we also offer
regularly-scheduled pet therapy sessions.
Our active senior living
in Cottonwood Heights, UT, values creating
lasting friendships and human bonds, planning regular activities that connect
residents with other residents, the community, and their family and friends.
However, aging naturally comes with a sense of loneliness and anxiety, and it’s
vital to incorporate activities designed to ease these feelings. Studies show
that animal-assisted therapy helps seniors feel less lonely, and we have seen
firsthand how the presence of a furry friend uplifts the wellbeing of our
With our pet therapy
program, our residents can pet, walk, feed, and groom a number of dogs and cats
under our care. We have found pet therapy to be especially helpful for our
residents faced with the early onset of dementia, helping to lift their mood
and invoke a sense of wellbeing.
In honor of our love
of pets at Canyon Creek Senior Living, we wanted to take a moment to share a
touching story about our late and beloved community pet, Molly.
Molly belonged to one of our residents. Out
of respect for her family, we will refer to this resident as Sarah. To Sarah,
little Molly was her everything. Molly lived with Sarah until her passing. When
Sarah passed away, her family planned to put Molly to sleep; Molly was 13 years
old, and was very attached to her owner. However, upon the blessing of our
former Executive Director, Sandi Johnson, Molly returned to live at Canyon
Creek Senior Living and became our community pet.
Molly’s bed was placed behind the front desk
of our building. Whenever a guest would walk through the doors, Molly would
greet them. Eventually, every family member, friend, and health care
professional who came to visit would look for Molly to give her a pat on the
head before going on their way.
In addition to greeting
guests, Molly would tromp the halls, visiting all of the residents, but mostly
the ones who would offer her treats. The residents who lived on the second and
third floor of the building would come down with a daily treat and would sometimes
even save a bite from their lunch or dinner to give to her. At one point, we
had to ask people not to feed her because she was getting so fat! Even though
the residents found it tough to resist her sweet puppy dog eyes, they resisted.
When Canyon Creek had
events, Molly was always there to add to the festivities; she had an outfit for
every occasion! The residents would just giggle with glee when they saw her.
She walked in parades, hunted for Easter Eggs at our annual hunt, attended our
Rock-N-Roll party and our annual holiday party--you name it, no matter what, she
was there! We even hosted a yearly birthday party, a “Gotcha Day,” for Molly.
The residents would crowd into our small activity room to enjoy cake and ice
cream and sing “Happy Birthday” to her.
When the residents were
feeling blue, Molly was always there. For the residents who were unable to
visit Molly, staff would take Molly upstairs to visit them. Molly was a joyful
distraction from many of the gloomy realities our residents face. She offered
serenity when they were anxious, a gentle kiss when they were ill, and a cuddle
when they were passing.
Not only did the residents
love Molly, but so did our
. Molly was loved by
all; in fact, when you entered our building, her headshot sat among those of
the managers in our entryway. Her title? “Everyone’s Best Friend.”
provided the community with joy and unconditional love. Molly’s time on this
Earth ended in September of 2014, but those who have been a part of our
community for many years still talk about her. Some of Molly’s adventures and
photos can be found on her Facebook page:
At Canyon Creek Senior
Living, we are committed to comforting and nurturing each and every one of our
residents. Pet therapy is just one of the many activities we provide as part of
our activities program. If you are interested in learning more about our
senior living community
, we are always available to answer any
questions you may have.
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