Sometimes a paw shake from a pup and a pat on its head is all it takes to make someone smile.
This simple gesture goes a long way at Scalabrini Village Bexley, where elderly residents are showing signs that animal interaction is strengthening their social resilience.
It is thanks to a couple of furry friends, Daisy and Louie, who visit the village and spend time with residents each week.
The Samoyed dogs, with their volunteer Lucy Ford, are part of the Delta Dogs therapy program, established by non-profit organisation Delta Society Australia.
It places therapy dogs in aged care facilities, hospitals, disability services, mental health units and schools.
Pet therapy aims to bring the joy of animal companionship to those who need it most, including people with dementia.
It has been running at Scalabrini for the past three years.
Staff say they have seen improvements in residents’ blood pressure and anxiety levels, helping with relaxation, comfort, spirit-lifting and decreased depression.
“The animal companionship is a powerful tool for people living with dementia because the touch stimulates their senses and when they play with the dogs, their moods and facial expressions are immediately and visibly lifted,” Scalabrini Village cultural coordinator Maria Carnevale said.
“People with dementia live in the present so spending time with the dogs can put them in a good mood for the entire day.
“I believe it’s about the touch, which evokes memories for those who had pets in their households.”
More volunteers are needed in St George.
If you have a dog with a good temperament, have an hour of two to spare each week and enjoy talking to people about your dog, Delta Society Australia would like to hear from you.
The next dog assessment day is July 24 and volunteer training begins on July 30.