Many seniors, particularly those over the age of 65, may think that they are too old to get a dog. If that dog is a puppy they may be even more apprehensive because dogs can be a lot of responsibility even if you are retired or don’t have the need to work full-time. What’s often overlooked are all of the positive and beneficial aspects that come along with adding a dog to the family later in life.
Contrary to popular belief, 70 is a great age to get a dog. Since people are living longer and longer as time goes on, there’s less of a worry of a dog outliving their owner and there are many ways in which a four-legged friend can be useful to a senior owner. Dogs have proven to be excellent companions to keep depression at bay, ease loneliness and pain, and keep their owners active. Senior owners can also help older, “less desirable” dogs find a forever owner since younger owners or families with children are less likely to take in older, less active animals.
If you’ve ever owned a dog you’re probably aware of how much of a struggle it is to find the time to effectively train and socialize a new dog. Ineffective housebreaking can lead to a dog becoming a little wild or difficult to control. One of the positives of getting a dog later in life is that seniors are typically retired and spend a good chunk of their time at home. So they have the time to bond with their new family members and train them to be model fur-children. It can even be argued that seniors end up with better-behaved pets than many younger owners who have to work all day and resort to leaving their pets in a training crate for the duration of their work day. All of the extra free time seniors may have throughout the day allows for walking, training, and playing with a dog that will become a joy for anyone to be around. Not to mention the dog will provide a real incentive for a senior to be more active and sociable during a time when many older people tend to turn in on themselves and become somewhat of a shut-in.
It’s true that once people reach 70 they tend to slow down a little bit, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t able to enjoy the company of a new friend. Plenty of 70-year-olds are still pretty active and a new dog can be the perfect companion when it comes to walking and other forms of activity. Dogs come in so many different sizes and a wide range of temperaments or personalities, so it’s not difficult to find a dog suited for any lifestyle. For example, a senior with limited mobility would match perfectly with a small lap dog or a dog that is more or less inactive while a senior who is still fairly active and mobile might be better suited for a larger dog or a dog that enjoys the outdoors and going out for walks every day. Dogs also make excellent safety precautions too. A dog will likely bark and raise alarm in the event of a break in, which will be a great asset for seniors who may suffer from hearing loss or live in less safe neighborhoods.
One of the biggest benefits of owning a dog are the ones that relate to mental health. Studies have shown that people who pet dogs have lower blood pressure and older adults who are dog owners are less likely to experience geriatric depression. It’s very easy for older people to fall victim to depression as they age or become less active or socially engaged after retirement. It’s even more likely if they experience the loss of a spouse or lose the social connections they had while they were working. Having a pet will help seniors stay connected to the outside world with routine vet check-ups or the trip to the groomers or the pet store. All of the shared activities that come with owning a pet (communal walks, trips to the dog park, etc.) are great ways to meet new people and make friends and serve as a great icebreaker.Older people who have pets tend to experience less stress than those who don't. Dogs provide unconditional love and friendship to the people that have them and the special bond between a dog and their owner often serves as a mental and emotional life saver for the elderly.
The mental and physical health benefits go hand in hand in pet ownership. Not only can dogs have a positive effect on your health by keeping illnesses such as depression at bay but they also help their owners stay physically active which has many benefits for physical health.Some days we may not feel like getting out of bed, or we might lack the motivation to go outside for our daily walk. A pet will give us the incentive to push through the funk many people find themselves in. For seniors, this funk often comes from a desire to feel useful and valuable after their kids have grown up and left the house and their career has ended. The bond with an animal and the commitment to take care of it will provide their owners with a routine and a sense of purpose when they may otherwise feel a loss of direction. Having that structure in their lives keeps the minds sharp and clear which can help in fighting off or lessening the symptoms of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.
If you’re a senior living in your golden years and you’re on the fence about adding a furry friend to your household, there are more than enough reasons to seriously consider it. Not only is there the opportunity to provide a loving home for a homeless animal who may otherwise be put down, but you’ll also experience many physical and emotional benefits from having a new friend to care for who also cares deeply about you in return.