You don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate the positive impact that animals can have on people. Anyone who’s experienced the tiny paws of a puppy, the comforting cluck of a chicken or the tickly whiskers of a rabbit will recognise the feeling of joy animals can bring.
Science does, however, help us understand why this positive effect occurs. Just a few minutes of interaction with an animal triggers an amazing reaction in the human body which lowers the stress hormone, cortisol; and increases the feel-good hormone, serotonin. It turns out, there really is science behind that warm and fuzzy feeling.
Australians certainly love their pets. A remarkable 83 per cent1 have owned a pet at some stage in their lives. Having to leave a treasured pet when moving into a care home can result in feelings of loss and loneliness. With this in mind, many Opal homes regularly welcome pets, accompanied by family members, to spend quality time with their owners and other residents. These visits provide a positive mutual topic for conversation and can stimulate memory and reminiscence.
For those living with dementia, studies have shown that interaction with animals can produce a measured decrease in agitated behaviours. The positive effects can also extend to a reduction in tension, fatigue and confusion. With their friendly and non-threatening manner, animals can help people with dementia to be more interactive in social settings.
The variety of animals that live in and visit our homes is remarkable. From the smallest day-old chick, to the largest gentle giant, Clydesdale; every day there are countless, heart-warming interactions between people and animals across the family of Opal homes.
1 Australian Companion Animal Council