As an individual enters their twilight years, they have to face different issues and challenges, particularly those concerning their physical and mental health. Adults from age 60 and older are confronted by the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and heart problems.
On top of that, more and more of the senior population report feeling lonely on a frequent basis, which can lead to serious health conditions like greater stress, less sleep, and more inflammation, among others.
In recent years, pet ownership is on the rise, and young people are not the only ones participating. Older adults are also seeing the benefit of getting one of their own. If you’re still contemplating whether to get one for yourself or for your aging parent, you may want to keep these advantages in mind.
Dogs were originally bred for hunting game animals and guarding property. Now, their primary purpose is to provide companionship to people. For seniors who live away from their families, a dog can be the perfect company. Dogs have such infectious enthusiasm and excitement for life that many can’t help but feel comforted by and happy in their presence.
Lessens Feelings of Isolation
Many seniors are retired and don’t keep responsibilities that compel them to go outside and interact with people. Their children and other family members may be living in other states, which means they may go on for weeks and months without contact.
These can be reasons a lot of older adults feel isolated and lack socialization. However, if one owns a dog, it’s the owner’s responsibility to take them out, go on walks, and visit places.
Dogs are social creatures, and owning one can open up avenues for the elderly to get in contact with more people. Further, there’s a large community of dog owners who are eager to interact and talk about their beloved pets.
Helps Them Stay Active
Studies have shown how having a dog has made seniors more active. In one study published in BMC Public Health, researchers found that dog-owning participants, ages 65 and older, walk 2,769 more steps or get about 23 minutes of moderate exercise than those who did not have dogs. No surprise there, considering how dogs need to be walked at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, depending on their breed, size, age, and energy levels.
Sharpens the Mind
Raising a dog or any pet is a huge responsibility, one that someone needs to prepare for. When seniors adopt a dog, they’re compelled to learn about the pet they are raising, from breed information and temperament to pet health and nutrition.
Moreover, training is also a huge part of raising a dog. A responsible owner has to be well-informed about the basic commands, right strategies and techniques, and safe and healthy rewards to use when training a canine companion.
With all these knowledge and skills one needs to acquire, it’s not hard to see how raising a dog keeps one sharp and focused.
Makes Them Happier
While all pets can bring their owners tremendous joy, dogs were found to bring higher levels of happiness to their owners. A survey of 1,500 to 3,000 adults found that 36 percent of the dog-owning lot said they were “very happy,” compared to 18 percent of cat owners.
In another study, one published in Anthrozoös, those who owned dogs were found to have higher scores in overall well-being than those who owned cats.
It’s no secret that looking into your dog’s eyes can trigger a release of oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone. The best thing? The feeling is mutual.
Owning a pet may not cure every elderly person’s illnesses, but studies have shown how it helps improve their health, alleviate their feelings of loneliness and isolation, and enrich their lives.
Of course, raising a dog takes a lot of time, energy, and money, but the rewards can far outweigh the drawbacks. That’s why many dog owners can’t help but spoil their pets and give them all the goodies and praise they deserve. Dogs and other pets are blessings to their owners, and the benefits of having one can only get better as a person ages.