According to new study, therapy dogs are able to significantly improve the lives of older war veterans by diminishing social isolation and age-related discomforts
Latest research from the St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program, McMaster and the Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina underlines the positive direct influence of dogs on the wellbeing of war veterans.
As observed, after regular visits from therapy dogs, the health and mood of the adults living in Veterans Affairs Canada residence in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan considerably increased.
The 13 weeks long study focused on 30 minutes individual or group sessions with the therapy dogs in order to alleviate the loneliness or boredom of the center’s residents by veterans here playing and directly interacting with the animals.
Moreover, the animal assisted activities boosted social interaction, and brought back pleasant memories for the veterans.
“The dogs were like a social catalyst, or a bridge for the veterans. For those who are quiet or not in the habit of socializing, it can be very taxing or a source of anxiety to interact with others. But the dogs drew the veterans out and gave them an occasion to recall memories, often about their own experiences with dogs, and tell those stories to the handlers,” commented one of co-authors of the research, as “comforting,” “enjoyable,” and “relaxing” were the exact words the veterans used to describe the experience.
The study also aimed to promote the importance of the animal-human relationship, as well as finding new ways to address the health needs of older war veterans, due to the fact that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) worsens with age.
As concluded, regular visits with therapy dogs can be a very valuable tool if aiming to reduce PTSD and maybe even avoid young veterans from unpleasant health-related situations in the future.
Further research will be conducted in order to develop the best animal assisted practices for vets.