AT AN aged- care facility in Canberra, an elderly resident moves around with his chattering cockatiel happily perched on his shoulder.
Morshead Home has a puppy, plus two rabbits and also allows residents to apply to keep their own pets.
The 79 residents enjoy the company of animals along with the social chit- chat that inevitably arises from their antics.
The evidence is there that companion animals benefit our physical, social and mental health and overall quality of life.
The benefits apply to people of all ages and from all walks of life but older people particularly gain from maintaining regular contact with pets.
In 1998, the World Health Organisation endorsed the call for governments to recognise the therapeutic value of the human- animal bond and to use this knowledge to enact positive legislation for pets in housing and residential care.
In the US, Canada, Greece, France and Switzerland, legislation is in place to ensure older adults have the right to keep or maintain contact with animals, whether they live independently, in sheltered accommodation or care homes.
Studies of aged- care facilities that successfully permit residents to bring their own pets consistently show broad decision- making processes which consider the welfare of owners, other residents and the animals.
Well- constructed pet policies include clear conditions relating to the number and types of pets and expectations around the behaviour of animals.
Written agreements set out conditions of ownership in clear, easy to understand language.
Managers of successful pet- friendly facilities have stated that pets contribute to community feeling and encourage friendships between residents.
Complaints about pets are minimal where clear guidelines are adopted and where ‘‘ expert’’ community volunteers provide advice and support for pet owners.
A comprehensive guide to supporting older people with pets is available for health and social care professionals and aged care providers through the Society for Companion Animal Studies UK email firstname.lastname@example.org