by Steve Wujek
Special to The Leaven
OLATHE — A special love is in the air this spring at Santa Marta senior living here as the residents and associates at the community welcome a new member to the family — Lila.
Lila, a six-month-old Golden Retriever, is working on her certification as a therapy dog in the coming weeks and has acclimated well to the love and affection received by everyone at the community. Once she graduates from therapy classes, Lila will become a full-time team member and contribute to the overall wellness and culture at Santa Marta.
“Every time I bring her to the community, she really perks up and has an extra bounce in her step,” said Kelsey Jardon, Lila’s owner and director of social services at Santa Marta. “And it’s so neat to watch the impact she has on everyone she meets. It only takes her a few seconds to create smiles and lift spirits from the hugs she gets and kisses she delivers.”
Research has shown holistic wellness benefits for seniors who spend time with pets. One study published by Frontiers in Psychology journal and the National Institutes of Health concluded that spending just 15 minutes with an animal increases positive hormonal changes in the brain and decreases stress.
There are many physical, social and emotional benefits that are produced from therapy sessions with a pet. Some of those include:
• improvement of social attention, behavior, interpersonal interaction and mood
• reduction of stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure
• reduction of self-reported fear and anxiety
• improvement of mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular health
“This is such a special endeavor for our community, and everyone is looking forward to having a more consistent engagement with Lila here at Santa Marta,” said Jardon.