Feathers, fins or fur, all pets can make us feel happier. Now, new research from the University of South Australia (UniSA) shows pet ownership and pet care can also support communication and well-being, especially for older people with acquired language difficulties such as aphasia.
Older people are at higher risk of developing aphasia as sensory issues begin to arise. Vision and hearing loss are prevalent in older adults which often results in poor communication and diminished psychosocial functioning. Communication breakdown results in decreased socialisation which also affects people’s physical and mental well-being.
UniSA Student Researcher, Charlotte Mitchard, said pets offer older people with aphasia “friendship without expectations”.
“Aphasia can have a big impact on a person’s life affecting how they connect and interact with others, as well as how they participate in the community,” Ms Mitchard said.
Senior Researcher and Speech Pathologist Professor Maria Kambanaros said the study paves the way for more pet and health research in speech pathology. The team’s next research challenge has already been outlined – examining how pet ownership can help people who are caring for those with aphasia.
“Beyond that, we’re also exploring the impact of pet ownership on the well-being of people with different acquired neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease,” Prof Kambanaros explained.
“We know pets have a positive impact on our lives. By exploring how speech pathologists can support this in therapy, we can promote a far better quality of life.”