Animals Make Vulnerable Populations Healthier

Itzel Feregrino, Mya Schlegel, Sydney Smith , Kurumi Kinoshita, Marissa Hennings

A lot of people don’t realize that animals can help humans with mental health. Animals have a special way of connecting with humans feelings, sometimes humans can’t help each other out because they don’t understand. Animals help us connect more with our own feelings.

This is why elderly people will have a companion animal, to make them feel less lonely,sad,or depressed. They help us feel like someone can to talk to even if they don’t actually communicate with us. They also help us live a better life by helping us throughout the day and make things easier. They help us exercises by taking them out to walks. And that makes the elders become more interactive with the people in their communities. Companion animals make life easier and motivate us everyday to wake up and so something with people’s lives.


The data collected in Omaha related to the  study was found through secondary data. The data gathered was composed of various websites of different organizations that showed used companion animals with the elderly in Omaha. The organizations looked at for data were located in Omaha and are still actively running. Once websites were found of the organizations as our data set, the process of analyzing the data could begin.

Each week something different was done that helped us reach our goal in the research project. The first thing the group  had to do is come up with an idea of what the research project was going to be about, once the group had the idea clear of the project we started an annotated bibliography. The group  had to also collect data, each of us had to find 4 scholarly articles about companion animals, and other animals. The group created a data set with all of our information combined so could see what kind of information the group  had and what the group can use. The group made 3 different types of tables so the group could understand more in depth of the information the group had, the first table was group coding table, groups finding table, and then individual coding table. With all the information the group gathered and put into one.

Mental and Physical Benefits

From the articles read and the data collected our group researched places that were in Omaha Nebraska and found pet friendly places that assist and help the elderly and the benefits from it.  Animals can benefit the elderly mentally and physical, animals can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Having and animal/ pet and loving an animal is not threatening and can quickly heal an emotional scar on the human heart. It has also been proven that being around a dog helps with a sense of well being, being increases. Animals also boost the elderly’s moods and provide increase mental stimulation this helps by reducing depression symptoms and gives  them something uplifting. Having a pet benefits the elderly and offer affection, unconditional love, fight loneliness and can help ease the loss of a loved one.

Sociological Analysis of mental and physical benefits

Effect of animal- assisted therapy on the psychological and functional status of elderly populations and patients with psychiatric disorders: a meta-analysis:

During the research found, there was a case study that studied  animals and their humans and the benefit that animals help with. It was proven that animals help humans with their mental and physical health. The cases stated that animals help humans with better well being and lower rates in depression and along with lower blood pressure and anxiety. Being a pet owner helps with physical health by being active,  poor social functioning and behavioral disturbances were reduced. Each study was conducted over months period of time The article suggest that it might be effective in improving social functioning among older they are in line with stress buffering and social enhancement.

This article relates and ties into the research paper because it helps with the finding and information to backup the data that was  collected along with out results and provides more information. The article states the benefits that animals do and help the elderly mentally and physically. Having animal interactions helps with their social, mental and also physical well being which is very important. They help with mild depression and also moods and the elderly’s health. (Cherniack, E.Paul, and Ariella R. Cherniack. 2014) (Virués-Ortega, Javier, et al 2012)


Benefits to Shelters

It is seen through the data it was found that there is a benefit to the elderly to have companion animals around, but there is also another unintended positive consequence to having more elders get pets. And that is the benefit towards shelters. If more elders in local communities have companion animals and even have help keeping them, then can prevent those animals from being taken to the shelters like the Nebraska Humane Society. And this is a huge positive thing for both parties. This would in a way be actively helping two problems in the Omaha area. Shelters have also shown they are on board with this, as the shelters already have some programs in place that can help either the elderly obtain or maintain their furry friends. Like programs that help elders pay the fees for the animals so they can keep them from having to get taken away. There are also programs to help shelter animals in Omaha with no homes to be support or service animals for the elderly either for on or maybe a whole group, like a retirement home. This helps the elderly get the happiness and positive benefits was discussed through animals, while giving those animals a new purpose in the lives, which is an amazing success.

Sociological Analysis of the benefit to shelters

The results found showed that there is a positive effect to shelters by more elders getting animals from them. This is important because by implementing a system of helping elderly gain the positive effect found by both us and many different scholarly articles, there would be a direct effect to shelter. The more people able to adopt animals would lead to more animals getting adopted and therefore lead to less animals in shelters. And this shows a sociological benefit to all three parties. The benefits our shown in our data, and the benefits are shown also through the scholarly articles previously found and cited. As stated in the rest of this paper there is a relation in results between our results and the results of other studies. And this lays the foundation to the reasoning for why elders should get companion animals. And the connection can then be made to benefit the shelters that more animals are getting adopted from.
Benefits for Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have pet therapy visitations regularly, and many elder residents look forward to this event. Many residents have had pets in the past, but have had to give up animals to live in nursing homes, but they can still have a fun time with animals through this event. Programs that involve therapy animals helps support conversation among the elderly in nursing homes. Not only dogs but other animals such as farm animals provide a service through companionship or joy through a meet and greet to elder residents. Those therapy animals are trained which means they know how to work with nursing home staff, seniors, be comfortable around medical equipment, nursing home odors, loud, disruptive sounds, wheelchairs, walkers and other distractions. The unconditional love and constant companionship of a pet can be a lifeline for elderly because those pets are always be with them even though the residents are slower-paced or less mobile and don’t get out and about as much. Typically smaller animals are brought so that they can be held in a lap. It’s beneficial both for animals and residents because animals need attentions to thrive, and being needed makes the residents thrive. Also, in hospice environments,therapy dogs can play a role in palliative care by reducing death anxiety of residents who often, find themselves frustrated and depressed since they are thrust into unknown territory where they are now the ones in need of care.

Sociological Analysis of the benefits of nursing homes

Pet Therapy and Institutionalized Elderly: A Study on 144
Cognitively Unimpaired Subjects

The aim of this study was to see whether or not pet programs for healthy institutionalized elderly can benefit them. (Colombo, Giovanni. 2005) This study is a good reference because it has the numbers to reinforce that there are effects to pets and the elderly. And there is an interesting insight to this study because as all the other ones focuses on participants with either dogs or cats, this study only uses a birds and plants as an example of pet relationships. Even given that they still came with a similar conclusion as the cat and dog studies. So the hypothesis could even come back with a positive conclusion when looking at all elderly companionship with pets, and not just dog and cat companionship. And through this study we were able to take the data found by our group and have multiple kinds of evidence to support our claims, specifically when the benefits relate if elderly in assisted living facilities. And gives us a further hypothesis that can expand to any companion animals, not just the obvious ones like dogs.


    Communities involving programs for the elderly are also designed to help the whole community, these programs help people who are dog owners, their pets, the elderly, their family and in the nursing home. The Domesti-Pups article and Scatter Acres article give information that state this helps the animals just as much as it helps the people they are helping. The Domesti-Pups program states there benefits as helping to bring dogs, and it’s owners together to help the people and nursing homes in need. The Scatters Acres article states that they bring different animals such as animals from farms such as sheep, llamas, and in doing so it brings up a brightened conversation among the elderly helping bring up something they may have in common.

  Therapy dogs can help lead the way for communication in communities as well in many simple way as it starts in simple conversations among individuals. Data has shown dog walkers are more likely to stop and talk to each other. animals as well help those with borders bring them down and promote trust in seniors, they help them form and create tighter relationships among those in their nursing homes, communities inside and outside of them.

Sociological Analysis of Communities


    What was found is a study that examines elderly pet owners through interviews and seeing responses of different topics. The study looks at how pets can manage the independence or independence of the elderly. They seperate two main topics the independent lives with their pets and the social lives with their pets. (Hara, Shoko 2007) They were able to look at the two and conclude that pets were able to help the elderly in many different ways to keep their independence and dependence emotionally and socially. These findings show that it helps the community specifically the elderly community, because it helps them be comfortable with where they are in life while helping support relationships with their friends and families.

Companion Animals for Elderly Woman:The Importance of Attachment

In this study it examines the effects animals have specifically on elderly woman. The main information they used was the interviews of eleven elderly women where they were asked a series of question to evaluate the importance and attachment to animals in their daily lives.(Chur-Hansen, Anna, Russell Winefield and Melinda Beckwith 2009)Their conclusion was that the large theme among all these women is attachment, as many of these women saw these animals as a family member and some felt like they needed to take a parental role with the animal, and many of them felt like there would be a fairly negative effect in their life as the help them exercise and be active, and it  relates to our research because it takes a look at the lives of the elderly and how they fit into the community. These findings show how important it is to have a animal companion to the elderly. Sometimes if they feel like they don’t fit in, they show the love and attention they need, It also helps them connect by helping them having a topic of discussion with others or giving them a reason to get active.

Developing effective animal assisted interventions involving visiting dogs for institutionalized geriatric patients:

In this study it assess the effectiveness of animal assisted programs and its ability to reduce depression as well as everyday apathetic state. The tested this by measuring the patients social communicative behaviors during AAL.(Cherniack, E.Paul, and Ariella R. Cherniack. Jan. 2014) The result was that the elderly’s mood appeared to have been improved, they participated in healthy activity, and their communication skills had been improved.  

While this study connects to our research because it is similar to our findings in showing the effectiveness of animals on the elderly. It shows how this helps the elderly’s health as well as their community improving their outlook and helping them being more communicate among the people around them as well the nursing home community they live in.


Sources cited

Cherniack, E.Paul, and Ariella R. Cherniack. “The Benefit of Pets and Animal-Assisted Therapy to the Health of Older Individuals.” Current Gerontology & Geratrics Research, Jan. 2014, pp. 1–9. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1155/2014/623203.

Virués-Ortega, Javier, et al. “Effect of Animal-Assisted Therapy on the Psychological and Functional Status of Elderly Populations and Patients with Psychiatric Disorders: A Meta-Analysis.” Health Psychology Review, vol. 6, no. 2, Sept. 2012, pp. 197–221. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/17437199.2010.534965.

Hara, Shoko. “Managing the Dyad Between Independence and Dependence: Case Studies of the American Elderly and Their Lives With Pets.”Shibboleth Authentication Request, International Journal ofJapaneseSociology,2007,

Chur-Hansen, Anna, Russell Winefield, and Melinda Beckwith. “Companion Animals for

Elderly Women: The Importance of Attachment.”Qualitative Research in Psychology

6.4 (2009): 281–293. Web.

Cherniack, E.Paul, and Ariella R. Cherniack. “The Benefit of Pets and Animal-Assisted Therapyto the Health of Older Individuals.”Current Gerontology & Geratrics Research, Jan. 2014, pp.1–9.EBSCOhost, doi:10.1155/2014/623203.