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An article in the June 2019 Journal of Applied Gerontology looked at using pets to help senior citizens with pain. Cognitive behavioral self-management strategies are used to help seniors deal with chronic pain, and this study looked to see if pets might be incorporated into these strategies with a positive end.

Researchers examined the sleep, mood management, relaxation/distraction, physical, behavioral, and social activities of four focus groups composed of people over 70 years of age. The goal was to see if pets could help to reduce dependence on pharmaceutical management of pain.

“Overall, pet owners reported that their animals increased positive feelings, had a soothing presence, encouraged activity through walking, motivated activity even when they were in pain, facilitated socializing, and encouraged a regular daily routine and sleep routine. They described their pets as sources of comfort, patience, support, and protection. Importantly, pets ‘kept them going’ and helped them to avoid a downward spiral of inactivity, which can lead to mood problems and more pain,” according to the study.

Having pets as a senior can cause some complications as well, however. Concern about the costs of pet ownership, providing for a pet once the owner has passed on, and being capable of providing the necessary care can cause anxiety. Still, pets provided more pluses than minuses and can be an important part of the strategy for senior human health care.

Pets May Help Older Adults Manage Chronic Pain, Medscape, July19, 2019