An effort at a South Surrey retirement residence to help seniors reap the benefits of canine interaction has been “so successful,” officials say.
“We find this helps the residents who don’t join groups or aren’t as involved,” Lauren Le Huquet, life enrichment co-ordinator at Amica White Rock, said Thursday, of a pet-therapy program that has become a staple at the 15333 16 Ave. complex.
The program, launched about a year before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, sees pet-therapy teams visit the residence’s three “neighbourhoods” – independent living, long-term care and memory care – three times a week.
The pups and volunteers – all certified by Pets and Friends, a registered charity that has been providing such services throughout the Lower Mainland since 1982 – make the rounds offering “a dose of warmth and love” to any and all who need or want it.
The teams “share the love only a furry, four-legged friend can offer,” states information on the charity’s website.
“A visit with a therapy pet can normalize the environment, impart a ‘paws-itive’ outlook, and bring unconditional love and acceptance that no words can offer.”
Le Huquet said at Amica – where a bronze sculpture of a dog was unveiled in August 2020, to “initiate reflection and meditation… during these challenging times” – the visits have been embraced by many residents, with the one-on-one experiences helping resolve loneliness and depression.
According to a news release issued to mark International Dog Day (Aug. 26), the benefits of a dog’s companionship can be particularly positive for seniors. The interactions can improve their mood and reduce stress; boost self-esteem and provide an opportunity to feel needed; promote social connection by offering a reason to interact with other residents, staff or visitors; and improve physical health by encouraging light exercise.
Le Huquet said while the pandemic initially took a bite out of the pet-therapy program, this year has been a busy one for those involved – and she’d love to see it get busier.
“I’d love to have 10 or more (pet-therapy teams),” she said. “Everyone here loves animals.”
The residence does allow small- to medium-sized dogs and cats to live in residents’ private suites. Currently, only three or four animals call the facility home.