Pets have been proven to reduce stress and generally improve health and mood.
And for elderly people suffering with memory issues, having something to do that is helpful and fun can be just what the doctor ordered. That's why the partnership between Catalina Springs Memory Center and Pima Animal Care Center in Arizona is extraordinary. This program is doing good work for both the senior citizens and the foster kittens in their care.
Rebecca Hamilton, the health director at Catalina Springs Memory Center, is no stranger to fostering kittens. She thought the "Bottle Babies" program would be perfect for her residents.
“They [seem to] recognize them as babies, and the human instinct to nurture just kicks in automatically,” Hamilton said.
Some patients who were previously loners or didn't want to be bothered are now coming out of their shells with a renewed sense of purpose. Their family members are noticing a difference.
Greg, pictured here with Turtle, used to fear social interaction and get frustrated easily. Now he happily takes the kittens on walks around the facility.
Interacting with the kitties has also increased clarity in communication and adds to residents' quality of life.
Thelma, the resident pictured above, even remembered long-lost memories of working on a farm when bottle-feeding Peaches.
"The desire to give love and receive love remains. The kittens have given us the opportunity to nurture this human condition that lies in each and every one of our residents," said Sharon Mercer, Executive Director of the care facility.
Loss of independence can be one of the hardest parts about diseases that affect memory, and caring for animals can help regain some of that lost power.
It's not just the elderly folks who are benefitting from this partnership, either. Peaches and Turtle are thriving and have grown twice as big since they first arrived.