1 December 2014
Award-winning research by a USC Occupational Therapy (OT) Honours student has confirmed what many senior pet owners already believe – that owning pets is good for them.
Jordana Parkes-Moller’s research into the health-related benefits of pet ownership for older Australians won the prize for best student research paper at the recent Occupational Therapy Australia Queensland state conference in Noosa.
“It was fantastic just to attend the conference and hear about all the amazing OT research by others” said Jordana.
“But to actually present my own research and have so many people there really interested in it and giving me great feedback was awesome.”
Jordana, 21, who has just completed her fourth year of study at USC, said a growing number of older adults were living alone and were at risk of social isolation and lowered quality of life.
“I based my research on clients of Pets for Life, a great volunteer community organisation in Caloundra that helps seniors take care of their pets at home,” she said.
“My study found that there are social, physical and mental health benefits to continued pet ownership and confirms the importance of organisations like Pets for Life, which make it possible for older people to keep their pets.
“Pets can facilitate social interaction. If they go for a walk or sit in the front yard, people might talk to the pet and the senior owner. In my study, the pet owners also got to speak with the Pets for Life volunteers.
“Pets can motivate their owners – whether it is to go for a walk or to simply get out of bed in the morning to feed the pet. They also decrease loneliness by providing companionship and feelings of safety, and act as someone for the owner to nurture.”
Jordana’s Honours thesis research was supervised by USC OT Lecturer Anita Hamilton.
— Jane Cameron