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The experience of animal therapy in residential aged care in New Zealand: a narrative analysis

  • Gemma Wong (a1) and Mary Breheny (a1)


Animal therapy has been shown to have both physiological and psychological benefits for older people, including improvements in outlook and social interaction. Volunteer-led animal visitation programmes are common within residential aged care facilities in New Zealand. Visits by animals and handlers are intended to improve the quality of life of people in residential care. Very little research has been conducted on the informal animal visitation programmes typical in care facilities in New Zealand. This project examined the experience of animal therapy in two residential aged care homes that receive animal visits from an animal welfare organisation. In-depth interviews were conducted with seven older people about their experiences of the programme and analysed using narrative analysis. Three overarching narratives were identified: animal therapy as a fleeting pleasure, residential care as a sad environment, and identity outside residential care as highly valued. Older people in residential care do value animal therapy, but it is narrated as a fleeting pleasure, rather than having a long-lasting or far-reaching impact on the daily experience of residential care. In some ways, the structure of the animal therapy programme may underscore the challenges to everyday autonomy and identity experienced in residential aged care. These findings can be used to develop animal visiting programmes which recognise the importance of a valued social identity in later life.


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The experience of animal therapy in residential aged care in New Zealand: a narrative analysis

  • Gemma Wong (a1) and Mary Breheny (a1)


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