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SENIORS : Pet Feelings : Animals and the elderly share a companionable need to care and be cared for.

November 08, 1990|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Studies reveal that a carefully selected pet may contribute to the health--and even recovery--of older people, especially those who live alone. Over the last decade research has revealed that interaction with pets gives owners a sense of safety, comfort and constancy.

A pet also facilitates social relationships by giving the person something to talk about. It may draw a depressed person out of himself. And a pet is a companion--a non-judgmental friend you can talk to. Dr. Betty Carmack, associate professor at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing, teaches her students about the importance of pets in the lives of their owners.

"Caring for a pet lets a person feel needed. It boosts an elderly person's self-esteem," Carmack said. It also structures a person's day. More important, Carmack said, pet owners are generally motivated to take better care of themselves because they want to be there for their pets.

Following Carmack's example of "pet therapy," Dr. Carol Melton, a veterinarian at the Conejo Valley Veterinary Cinic, has been taking animals to visit patients at Mary Health of the Sick Nursing Hospital in Newbury Park for the past year.

On a recent visit, 95-year-old Mildred Kochman recognized the veterinarian and the tabby cat Hockey at once. She was soon reminiscing about her own pets and childhood.

"An animal stimulates their interest and gives us something to talk about right away," said Melton, who is 29. She gives each patient a snapshot of Hockey for her wall.

More mail-order or mobile services for seniors:

Prescriptions by mail:

Members of the American Assn. of Retired Persons might consider using the AARP pharmacy mail-order service. Send your original written prescription, which they keep on file, with your name, mailing address and phone number. Your order should arrive in eight to 10 days with an invoice for the cost. You can save on most items including up to 50% on generic prescriptions.

AARP Pharmacy Service

5947 Boulder Highway

P.O. Box 98522

Las Vegas, Nev. 89193-8522

For pharmaceutical services information, call (702) 456-7665. For order information, call 1-800-333-5600.

Stamps by mail:

You can order stamps from the Postal Service 24 hours a day, seven days a week and receive them in three to five business days. Be prepared to give a Visa, MasterCard or Discover Card number. There's a $3 service charge and requests for specific stamps cannot be filled. Call 1-800-782-6724.

Physical therapy:

Physical therapist Sally Stevens brings a specially equipped bus to patients who need exercise, massage or rehabilitation therapy. Medicare insurance is accepted as full payment. Call Physical Therapy in Motion Inc. (805) 522-9983.

Next week: Thanksgiving dining tips for seniors on their own.

FYI

Information on human-animal companion studies and other therapeutic programs is available from the following sources: People-Pet Partnership Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-7010. The Center for Interaction of Animals and Society, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3800 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6044. The Delta Society, 321 Burnett Ave. South, Suite 303, Renton, WA 98055.

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