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Human-Animal Interaction and Healthy Aging

A team of experts assembled by GSA, has been charged with guiding GSA in the development of valuable, credible, and trusted resources to provide awareness of all aspects of Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) as it relates to aging, and to help in advance scientific research endeavors.

Life expectancy has vastly increased in many parts of the world, and while pet ownership and other types of HAI have demonstrated benefits to human health, very little is known about the potential role that pets may play in healthy aging.

The expert panel on Human Animal Interaction seeks a multidisciplinary approach to this emerging field of study, through increased research in the roles of companion animals in the lives of older adults, such as mitigating loneliness, social isolation, and depression; and enhancing mobility and cognitive function.

Resources

Infographic

Pet Ownership for Seniors

Please include attribution to https://caringpeopleinc.com/ with this graphic.

Funding

GSA, in collaboration with Mars Petcare/WALTHAM™, is funding high quality, innovative research into the impact of companion animals on healthy aging in humans. Through a $50,000 award in 2017, we will promote innovation and enable the conduct of high-quality research on the impact of HAI (pet ownership or other forms of interaction) on healthy aging in older adults (50+ years of age) and/or their caregivers.

The recipients of the award were announced in July at the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress: Drs. Dawn Carr and Natalie Sachs-Ericsson from Florida State University. Dawn and Natalie will be using the Health and Retirement Survey, which includes a module on Human Animal Interaction, to study four aims that will test the hypothesis that a companion animal is beneficial to health in older people, particularly those who are socially isolated and experience a major social loss:

  1. Identify critical factors that predict selecting a companion animal later in life, particularly in relation to health, and to understand the selection processes that may influence the benefits of companion animals on older adults
  2. Determine if and in what ways human social processes are involved in shaping the relation between companion animals and human health.
  3. Examine the influence of companion animals on health among socially isolated older adults relative to socially integrated older adults who experience a major social loss
  4. Contribute to a theoretical framework outlining the relationships between human-animal interaction among older adults and human health

This study uses an underutilized data set and will help us to better understand how social context shapes the relevance of companion animals for a range of health problems later in life, particularly for vulnerable older adults.

Expert Panel at Advancing Research on Human-Animal Interactions in Human Aging, April 25-26, 2016

Marie A. Bernard, MD
Deputy Director
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

Angela L. Curl, PhD, MSW
Assistant Professor & Scripps Gerontology Fellow
Family Studies & Social Work
Miami University
Oxford, OH

Marie-José Enders-Slegers, PhD, MSc
Professor in Anthrozoology
Department Anthrozoology
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Open University
Heerlen, The Netherlands

Layla Esposito, PhD, MA
Program Officer of the Child Development and Behavior Branch
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health
Rockville, MD

Erika Friedmann, PhD
Professor
Associate Dean of Research
University of Maryland School of Nursing
Baltimore, MD

Nancy R. Gee, PhD
Professor & WALTHAM HAI Research Manager
Department of Psychology
SUNY Fredonia
Fredonia, New York

Melissa S. Gerald, PhD
Program Director
Division of Behavioral and Social Research
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

James A. Griffin, PhD
Deputy Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health
Rockville, MD

 

John G. Haaga, PhD
Acting Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Research
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

Nancy Morrow-Howell, MSW, PhD
Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy
Director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, MO
GSA President

Megan K. Mueller, PhD
Elizabeth Arnold Stevens Junior Professor
Research Assistant Professor
Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at
Tufts University
North Grafton, MA

Barbara Resnick, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP
Professor of Nursing
University of Maryland School of Nursing
Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz Chair in Gerontology
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD

Laura P. Sands, PhD
Professor
Center for Gerontology
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA

James Serpell, PhD
Marie A. Moore Professor of Animal Ethics and Welfare
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA

Michelle D. Shardell, PhD
Staff Scientist Statistician
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

This program is developed by GSA and supported by Mars Incorporated and WALTHAM, the Petcare research division of Mars.

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