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We know pets rock, but what they can do for seniors is amazing.

Three noteworthy reasons why pet-assisted therapy helps seniors in a big way.

We know pets rock, but what they can do for seniors is amazing.

At times, becoming a senior citizen isn't such a wonderful experience.

Sure, there are lots of things that are great about getting older. But there can also be emotional and physical pain, along with bouts of loneliness and depression that can make each day extremely difficult for the elderly and their loved ones.

Thankfully, there is some good news. 


We all know that great feeling we get when we hug a friendly animal, right?

Nowadays, more health organizations are using animals to help their patients and residents feel better, too. It's especially true for seniors.

Mary Farkas, director of therapeutic activities for the Hebrew Home by RiverSpring Health in Riverdale, New York, believes the benefits of animal-assisted therapy are big. Her facility implemented the Pet-Pals program that allows animals to interact with its residents on a regular basis. 

The dogs all undergo training and are either Canine Good Citizens or in the process of becoming one.

Meet Luca, one of the amazing therapy dogs at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. Photo from RiverSpring Health, used with permission.

"They are temperament tested to be sure they are appropriate for this kind of work," Mary told Upworthy. "They also receive ongoing training from our trainer."

Here are three noteworthy ways animal-assisted therapy adds a little sunshine to the lives of seniors. 

1. Pets help with their memory.

Studies have shown that seniors' minds are stimulated while they're interacting with animals and after the animals have left. 

Hebrew Home at Riverdale resident Edythe Kershnar enjoys the company of pet therapy dogs Kiki (left) and Max. Photo from RiverSpring Health, used with permission.

"We have residents who have raised puppies in their younger days, and they can recall vivid memories as soon as they see our therapy dogs," Mary told Upworthy. "It's really great to see."

Not only that, interacting with pets also helps stimulate their minds because they remember the animals' names. 

Check out Hebrew Home resident Beverly Herzog with her pet therapy dog, Marley. 

"Oftentimes Beverly asks if Marley is going to give her a kiss today," said Catherine Farrell, assistant director of therapeutic activities at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. "It's almost as if Marley is hers."

And yes, Beverly gets those kisses from her pal, Marley. 

Pet smooches for Beverly!

2. Pets help get them out of their shell.

Sadly, many seniors become lonely and solitary as the days go by. That results in a lot less talking. 

But when therapy pets are brought into the equation, loneliness is reduced significantly and they help seniors become more social.  

"Some of our residents don't communicate verbally on a regular basis," Mary said. "But when they see our pets, they'll usually make a point to speak to the animals. It's wonderful to see them break out of their shells."

Hebrew Home at Riverdale resident Phyllis Johnson gives some cuddles. Photo from RiverSpring Health, used with permission.

3. Pets simply make them happier.

There are many benefits to animal-assisted therapy for seniors, ranging from lower blood pressure to increased amounts of exercise, but arguably the most important one is how happy pets make everyone around them. 

Even the individuals who are not being treated feel happier when observing a pet therapy session. 

"Our residents show so much joy and excitement when they are around our therapy pets," Catherine said. "It makes everything worthwhile."

Hebrew Home at Riverdale resident Ethel Brown has a laugh with Marley. Photo from RiverSpring Health, used with permission.

Because when it comes to the impact of pets on human beings, you can definitely trust a big dog and a smile.

Lainey and baby goat Annie. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse
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Oftentimes, the journey to our true calling is winding and unexpected. Take Lainey Morse, who went from office manager to creator of the viral trend, Goat Yoga, thanks to her natural affinity for goats and throwing parties.

Back in 2015, Lainey bought a farm in Oregon and got her first goats who she named Ansel and Adams. "Once I got them, I was obsessed," says Lainey. "It was hard to get me off the farm to go do anything else."

Right away, she noticed what a calming presence they had. "Even the way they chew their cud is relaxing to be around because it's very methodical," she says. Lainey was going through a divorce and dealing with a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis at the time, but even when things got particularly hard, the goats provided relief.

"I found it impossible to be stressed or depressed when I was with them."

She started inviting friends up to the farm for what she called "Goat Happy Hour." Soon, the word spread about Lainey's delightful, stress-relieving furry friends. At one point, she auctioned off a child's birthday party at her farm, and the mom asked if they could do yoga with the goats. And lo, the idea for goat yoga was born.

A baby goat on a yoga student. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Goat yoga went viral so much so that by fall of 2016, Lainey was able to quit her office manager job at a remodeling company to manage her burgeoning goat yoga business full-time. Now she has 10 locations nationwide.

Lainey handles the backend management for all of her locations, and loves that side of the business too, even though it's less goat-related. "I still have my own personal Goat Happy Hour every single day so I still get to spend a lot of time with my goats," says Lainey. "I get the best of both worlds."

Lainey with her goat Fabio. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Since COVID-19 hit, her locations have had to close temporarily. She hopes her yoga locations will be able to resume classes in the spring when the vaccine is more widely available. "I think people will need goat yoga more than ever before, because everyone has been through so much stress in 2020," says Lainey.

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Jeff Harry started making similar moves when he was just 10-years-old, and kept making them throughout his life. After seeing the movie "Big,"Jeff knew he wanted to play with toys for a living, so he started writing toy companies asking for next steps. He finally got a response when he was a sophomore in high school — the company told him he needed to become a mechanical engineer first.

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Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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