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Pets help increase seniors’ health, lower medical costs

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“Nacho, the bird in our memory care area, helps residents know they are important, as they take turns feeding and caring for their feathered friend,” explains Judy Nordschow, director of Sales and Marketing, Fox Point, a senior lifestyle community in McHenry. “Research proves that seniors with pets live longer, as they have a sense of purpose. Whether seniors live in their own homes or in residential facilities, pets provide companionship plus health benefits.”

“Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreased feelings of loneliness, and increased opportunities for socialization,” states PetsForTheElderly.Org, which cites research from the American Heart Association and Harvard Medical School.

Experts add that pets fulfill the basic human need for touch through hugging, stroking fur, and making a connection. The ensuing comfort actually produces a chemical chain reaction in the brain that helps to reduce levels of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol, and increases the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.

A University of Minnesota study reveals that “pets actually lower health care costs. Seniors with pets make fewer doctor visits, and have more emotional stability in times of stress.”

Many senior living communities offer pet therapy programs to residents, and allow residents to keep pets in their living quarters.

While pets are not allowed in Fox Point’s dining areas for safety reasons, they are welcome inside the community. Nordschow recalls one resident who owned a cream-colored toy French poodle named Bre. “Bre would sit on another resident’s lap close by, while her owner ate dinner in the dining room. The sweet dog was happy to sit and watch its owner enjoy her meal. The other residents enjoyed the dog’s company, too.”

Fox Point : 3300 Charles J. Miler Memorial Highway, McHenry, IL 60050 : 815.385.9840 : http://www.seniorlifestyles.com/foxpoint.

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