There are so many ways you can get involved in your community.

You can volunteer, start a community garden, get to know your neighbors, read at your child’s school, participate in community groups; the list goes on and on. But while you’re out, “being the change that you want to see in the world,” what is your pet doing?

Yes, I did just ask about your pet. Pets can do more than just play around. They can have a huge impact on those in your community who are fighting isolation and depression; concerns that plague many in the senior community.

According to Susie McGee, there are 3 major ways that pets can impact the way seniors live:

  • Physical: Pets can help seniors be more active in a variety of ways. There is the obvious walking of the dog, but brushing and petting can also increase activity. It’s been documented that pets can help reduce blood pressure and stress in a person’s life, providing very real health benefits.
  • Mental: Pets that visit seniors can help stimulate memories of pets that the senior may have had in their own lifetime. These memories could trigger other memories and ideas that the senior may have forgotten. Also pets require routines, flexibility and planning; all great ways to stimulate mental capacity.
  • Emotional: Pets can provide seniors with companionship, reduce depression, decrease anxiety, and provide a higher level of comfort when they are visiting family or friends.
Pet Therapy
A few of our four-legged Chicago Cares volunteers in action.

Chicago Cares currently offers two pet therapy programs that aim to decrease isolation for the seniors and to increase the capacity of the activities staff at the different sites by building a sense of community within the sites. This is done by bringing domesticated animals and volunteers to visit all of the residents, especially those who aren’t mobile and who have mental disabilities, including dementia, and may not be able to participate in other programming at the sites.When asked to talk about Chicago Cares Pet Therapy programs Maria Chiappetta who is one of our Lakeview Seniors Pet Therapy volunteer leaders said “Pet therapy, on Monday is definitely something the residents look forward to and plan on, as the pets arrive the residents have treats ready, it is almost as if they are planning a visit from a loved one.”

Fran Smith who also is a volunteer leader with our Lakeview Seniors Pet Therapy program said “One lovely resident named Gertrude (she generally is wearing her pearls) loves having the pets come. She says they are working and hopes they get a salary. She volunteers to dog sit if we have a hot date or need a last-minute sitter.”

Megan Germain who leads our Pet Therapy at Covenant Home program said “I love going and watching the seniors with the pets. Even the ones who don’t necessarily interact directly with the pets still come out every month and enjoy the fun atmosphere that the animals bring.”

So next time you decide you want to do something good in your community don’t be greedy and keep the opportunity to yourself. Make sure you allow your pet a chance to make a difference as well!

Lakeview Seniors Pet Therapy and Pet Therapy at Covenant Home welcome all domesticated and well-behaved pets and volunteers to participate in their programs. Don’t have a pet but still want to volunteer with one? You can still sign up to participate at Lakeview or Covenant Home and work with another volunteer and his/her pet.

Today’s post is from Senior Coordinator, Rosie Drumgoole.

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