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The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) recently awarded a grant to the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging to study the impacts of pet ownership on healthy aging in health care and social service settings.

“Addressing the topic of pet ownership can promote honest and productive communication, uncovering risks and benefits to patients’ health,” said Jessica Bibbo, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, a nonprofit based in Cleveland. “We expect the results of this systematic investigation will elevate pet ownership issues from anecdotal professional experiences to recognized factors that shape the values and preferences of older adults, people living with dementia and caregivers.”

“Uncovering Pet Ownership Benefits, Challenges and Resources in an Aging Society: Promoting Healthy Aging in Healthcare and Community Environments” will survey a large interdisciplinary sample of professionals working with older adults, people living with dementia and caregivers about pet ownership.

The researchers aim to complete three objectives as part of the study:

  • “The first will be to identify the prevalence of pet ownership issues encountered among an extensive inter-professional sample of health care and social service organization professionals working directly with older adults and their caregivers,” officials said in a statement.
  • “The second will be to identify specific benefits, challenges and resources provided by pet ownership and the human-animal bond encountered by professionals working with older adults and their caregivers,” officials said.
  • “Finally, researchers will apply these results to create and disseminate information to health care and social service professionals on the benefits, challenges and resources provided by pet ownership and the human-animal bond to promote the healthy aging of older adults and their caregivers,” officials added.

“The desire to experience the human-animal bond does not end with a diagnosis of dementia,” Dr. Bibbo said. “Yet, the topic of pet ownership is largely overlooked in the training of those working with people living with and managing dementia. The unique capacity for the human-animal bond to facilitate healthy aging in this population amplifies the need to educate the geriatric workforce on all the aspects relevant to pet ownership.”

Steve Feldman, executive director of HABRI, added, “We know from research that pets can play a vital role in supporting the health and well-being of older adults, and HABRI’s goal is to help more people keep pets and have access to the human-animal bond as they age. HABRI is proud to support this study, which will inform those in health care and social services who take great care of the aging population on how best to facilitate healthy aging through the promotion of the human-animal bond.”