Pet therapy lifts spirits of rest home residents

Long Lunch 27/03/2018
Photo: Getty.

It’s hard for most people to ignore the unconditional love given from a pet. For the elderly living in aged care a loving pet can bring comfort.

For 11 years Marlborough’s Pets As Therapy programme has been helping those in retirement villages by pairing elderly people with a loving pet for company.

PAT co-ordinator Marion Preston told Wendyl Nissen on The Long Lunch the elderly “brighten up” when the animals visit.

“Mostly they like dogs; they’ve been brought up with working dogs, there are a lot of farmers in retirement homes.

“They talk about their work, their dogs, sometimes their parents and family that have long gone. And generally become more animated,” she told RadioLIVE.

Dogs used in the programme are trained to put their heads on people’s knees as a sign of saying ‘hello’.

Preston says the animals must be “obedient.”

“They have to not jump up or anything and they don’t have to be excitable.

The Marlborough-based programme is seeking more volunteers.

Preston says it’s also to raise awareness that therapy pets can benefit the elderly, particularly those who often feel lonely.

New volunteers are encouraged to shadow Preston’s visits with their own animal until they feel confident.

Pets As Therapy is run in conjunction with SPCA Marlborough. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Marion Preston via email on 

Listen to the full interview with Marion Preston above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.