Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 12/23/2020

Horse Power

Horse Power

Pets have special powers. Reams of evidence-based research has shown that pet interactions are beneficial for both children and adults struggling with a range of emotional and physical challenges. For older adults with dementia in particular, spending time with pets can help relieve depression and agitation.

But move over dogs. There’s something bigger! Larmax Homes was the first assisted living community in Maryland or Virginia to pilot an equine assisted learning program for older adults. The program brings horses to residents, giving them the opportunity to bond with the gentle giants.

Lori Larson, the co-founder of Larmax Homes, is a lifelong equestrian who spent a decade serving as the Chair of the Board of Directors of a therapeutic riding center. “I saw the benefits that therapeutic riding could provide for children with all sorts of cognitive and physical difficulties,” Lori said. “It became pretty clear to me that was transferable to older adults.”

Larmax Homes works with two local, non-profit therapeutic riding centers to provide assistance for residents: Great and Small and Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program.

Despite the global pandemic, equine assisted learning has continued. Because Larmax Homes are small, with just 8 residents per home, residents have been able to quarantine together while they have been isolated from their families.

Equine assisted learning has been a great opportunity for residents to benefit from social and emotional connections. “There’s nothing like touching and rubbing a horse to stimulate the mind and to help the body relax. Horses are so social, and it is a really powerful experience,” Lori concluded.

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