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Animal-assisted therapy enhances resident social interaction and initiation in long-term care facilities

By P. L. Bernstein, E. Friedmann, A. Malaspina

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Compared the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) with nonanimal therapy (NAT) for providing social stimulation among long term care (LTC) residents. The study was conducted at 2 LTC facilities with 122 and 200 residents. NATs included snack bingo or arts and crafts, while AAT involved animals from local animal shelters being brought by volunteers to group sessions. A total of 4 male and 29 female residents in their 70s and 80s were observed frequently enough to provide quantitative data for analysis. According to staff assessments, 26 of these residents were alert, well aware of their surroundings, and physically capable, while the remaining 7 were semialert or nonalert and had difficulty communicating. Residents were observed during a total of 74.9 hours of therapy: 41.1 hours during AAT and 33.8 hours during NAT. Common social behaviors that naturally occurred during therapy sessions were short and long conversations and touching. Observations were scored for frequencies and rates of the behaviors, who initiated the behaviors, and whether the behaviors were directed at other people or at animals. Overall, during AAT, residents were involved in as much or more conversation with others, including animals, as residents in NAT, and were more likely to initiate and participate in longer conversations. The most dramatic differences between therapy types were found in rates of touch: touching the animals during AAT added significantly to resident engagement in and initiation of this behavior. (AR) (AgeLine Database, copyright 2001 EBSCO Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved)

Date 2000
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 13
Issue 4
Pages 213-224
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address Kent State University, Stark Campus, 6000 Frank Avenue, Canton, OH 44720,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Art
  3. Communication
  4. Games
  5. Institutionalized populations
  6. Long-term care facilities
  7. Nursing homes
  8. Older adults
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Pet therapy
  11. social interactions
  12. touch
  13. United States of America
  1. peer-reviewed