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Pets create ‘pawsitive’ change for people in aged care

Furry, finned, or feathered, our family pets come in all shapes and sizes. But while these friendly faces keep us company at home, it’s a very different story for people in aged care – many of whom must relinquish their beloved pet as a condition of entry.

Researchers at the University of South Australia are calling for the Federal Government to mandate financial support for pets in aged care ­­­to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of thousands of residents.

The call follows UniSA research that explores a practical model of hosting companion animals in aged care, including foster animals and personal pets.

UniSA researcher and project lead, Dr Janette Young says we cannot underestimate the health benefits of human-animal relations, particularly for frail, older people in aged care.

“There’s no doubt that Australians love their pets. In fact, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world,” Dr Young says.

Now, as we edge into safer terrain, we can start to look at improving other aspects of aged care.

“Positive ageing is not just about living a long life. It’s about ageing well, enjoying your older years, and having purpose and comfort in your life. Pets can provide this.

“The issue now is funding. Many aged care facilities are keen to try new innovations but are limited by resources and funding. Staff turnover is also a significant barrier.

“We need the Federal Government to stand up to fund pets in aged care.

“Just like exercise facilities have become a core part of aged care facilities – and are proven to boost movement capabilities and wellbeing – so too should pets be considered an essential part of aged care.
“It’s no longer good enough for people to simply live longer. They need to be assured of happy, healthy, and meaningful older years, and for pet-loving older people, this means including their beloved pets.”

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