Have you noticed how prevalent it is to see animals inside of stores & other venues where they wouldn't have been allowed before? Young and old, disabled & seemingly healthy people have these companions with them these days for both physical help, as well as emotional support.
Spending time with animals has been shown to have health benefits for those people who are able to have them in their lives. Dogs are the animals that are most often studied, but many other animals can be used for emergency service animals.
In most states in the U.S., you'll need to get a special license to have the animals with you at all times if it's deemed necessary. But for the elderly, most of the benefits can be reaped without going through a licensing process. Seniors and elderly can find great solace in having a pet around to talk to. This alone can be enough to ward off depression & loneliness that can be common in the aging. Companionship with an animal can decrease stress and increase serotonin levels in the brain, making you feel calmer & happier.
Taking Fido for a regular walk can also help seniors to stay active & keep their heart healthy. A simple, but regular routine of light exercise like this can be greatly beneficial to the caregiver of the animal, as well as increasing the likelihood of engagement in the community and in nature which will also decrease stress & possibly broaden their support network as they meet new people.
If the person is traumatized by some event in the past, or if they are full of anxiety, as is often the case with Alzheimer's disease, the animal can be a consistent aid in calming them down.
Lastly, if the animal is needed for a specific purpose, like help with vision, the animal can be a life-saving choice. Many people use animals in this way so that they can function more normally with greater independence and safety than would otherwise be possible.
It doesn't matter how you look at it, the animals that become companions to the elderly may be a bit of work, but their value far outweighs the trouble of keeping them when one sees the emotional and physical benefits. Some animals are more suited to particular tasks than others, so be sure to do your research before jumping in with both feet, but consider the improvements that you may see with the small lifestyle change of adding an animal into their lives. All the small things can add up to a much longer, happier & healthier life for the loved ones we care for!