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Assisted Living | May 19, 2015 | By Jonita Dixon

Relationship Between Seniors & Pets

Grad Student Sees Relationship Between Seniors & Pets Through Camera Lens

Relationship Between Seniors & PetsAndria Hautamaki, a 29-year-old University of California, Davis graduate student used a photography class assignment as an opportunity to look through the lens of a camera at the relationship between seniors and their pets. To do so, Hautamaki met with Rob Read, executive director of Carlton Senior Living Davis, to plan a series of four photos of residents of the community with their pets, or “fun little friends,” as she calls them.

Several forms of therapy, including animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities, are based on the principle that animals can help people open up, feel more comfortable and generally live healthier.  That’s a principle Hautamaki  noticed when she looked at the relationship she has with her own dog, Mitón, a three-year-old border collie mix she brought back with her from Chile, where she lived and worked guiding trail rides and horse packing trips from 2011 to 2013.

Hautamaki spent some of her time in Chile making photos of the ranchers or baqueanos – “knowers of places” – as well as the natural backdrop provided by the Chilean wilderness. She used her photography to investigate and take a closer look at the issues facing the southernmost region of Chile, the “end of the world” as many call it. Documenting the lives of the southern Chilean ranchers, Hautamaki’s photos give insight into the lives of those who call the rugged landscape home.

“Being a student, the dog is good for getting me outside, going for runs,” said Hautamaki of her relationship with Mitón, which she said is beneficial to her well-being and one of the things that keeps her physically and mentally healthy.

Hautamaki, a Colorado native, is studying International Agricultural Development at UC Davis with the intent to use documentary photography to educate people on agricultural issues.  As part of that graduate program, she is taking a photo essay class from Ken Light, an adjunct professor at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism.

Hautamaki used an assignment from her that class as an opportunity to investigate the relationships people from different age groups have with their pets, specifically the relationships between seniors and their pets.

She made photos of the residents of Carlton Plaza of Davis – a local senior living community – with their pets, capturing the essence of the relationship and show the context of the environment in which the relationship takes place.  Getting the environmental context while shooting indoors, she says, was the biggest challenge she encountered during the photo shoot.
“It’s sometimes hard for people to open up about themselves, but when they’re talking about their family, their friends or their pets, it gets them talking a lot easier,” she said.

Hautamaki spent as much time as needed with each with four residents and their pets to capture the special nature of the relationship between the person and animal.

“It was great having Andria photograph the residents and their pets,” said Rob Read, executive director of the community. “The residents really opened up to her and enjoyed sharing their love of their pets.”  The photos were made over the course of two days using a Canon EOS 7D digital single-lens reflex camera with a portrait lens and no flash.

Carlton Plaza of Davis offers senior independent living; assisted living for those who need a little more help with day-to-day activities; and memory care for seniors challenged by Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory loss.  The community features an award-winning diabetes management program, short term respite care and on-staff nursing.

To learn more about Carlton Plaza of Davis, visit the community at 2726 Fifth Street in Davis, call (530) 564-7002 or visit the website at the Carlton Plaza of Davis Homepage.