Hand and Paw: Healthy Aging with a Friend

By Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S

Healthy Aging with a FriendEverywhere you look there are articles to read and products to purchase to help us slow down the effects of aging, yet there is also something so simple that can help. Your pets!

The saying “Who Rescued Who?” is so appropriate when it comes to the benefits of pets on our health and wellness. Whether you buy, or hopefully adopt, our furry family members can reduce stress levels, increase our social interactions, motivate our exercise routines, encourage playfulness, ease feelings of loneliness, provide affection, and yield unconditional love for us.

Structure to your life comes from having a pet. They depend fully on us for all of their basic needs. By having regular feeding and exercise routines, we get ourselves on a pattern for sleeping, eating, and getting our heart rate up! Sunshine or rain, illness or busy schedules, they need us to get them outside and fed.

Have you tried to be around a pet without laughing? It’s hard! No matter what they are doing, there is often a smile or laugh to be had. The look they give you, the funny way they learn to play ball by themselves, or their relentless nudging to pet them. All the signs are there to say, I am here for you! Let’s grow old together!

For those who are feeling lonely, a pet can provide companionship in the home, as well as out and about. Socializing becomes easier when you are taking your dog out to play or for a walk. Dogs can help break the ice to create conversations with those you may not ordinarily talk to. Dog parks, dog beaches, or just walking through the neighborhood can open doors for new relationships! You may become known as “Buddy’s mom” or “Fido’s dad”, but you will be improving your social and emotional wellness by expanding your circle!

Your medical doctors will see the benefits when your blood pressure lowers, your daily activities increase, your anxiety and/or depression symptoms are reduced, and your feelings of loneliness are less frequent.

Your mind stays sharp by keeping up with the needs of your dog or cat, researching their needs, and maintaining their schedule. Your loveable companion provides head to toe healthy aging!

If owning a pet isn’t something you are able to commit to, many of the benefits found in this article can still be yours! Animal assisted play therapy, animal assisted therapy, or volunteering with local animal rescues can provide you the contact with dogs and cats that will improve your health and wellness while making a difference in the lives of those animals!

Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Central Florida, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Florida (#SW8379), and a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor through the Association for Play Therapy. Tara also specializes in Play Therapy with children 2 -18 years old, as well as incorporates pet-assisted play therapy into some of her clinical work utilizing her two dogs Abbey and Bode.

Tara has worked in a variety of therapeutic roles including foster care, non-profit family counseling, non-profit individual counseling, elementary school based counseling programs, adolescent drug prevention/intervention, behavioral therapy with autism, domestic violence counseling, and supervised visitation, in addition to her private practice.

Tara’s counseling approach is client centered in that each session is unique to meet the client’s needs and utilizes tools that are most effective for the client such as play, music, pets, and art. More often with the younger children, non-directive and directive modalities of play therapy are utilized. Cognitive-behavioral approaches and family system approaches are also utilized.

Learn more on our website at www.deltafamilycounseling.com

Tara Moser, LCSW, RPT-S

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