How Dogs Can Help Seniors

It is no secret that dogs are a man’s best friend and that dogs can help seniors too. According to a study, 1,800 people aged 25 to 64 years were looked at. Half of them (42%) had a dog. These people were said to be healthier, as they exercised, ate well, and had better blood sugar levels than those without dogs. To sum it up, dog owners had better cardiovascular health than their counterparts.

This shows that dogs can help aging adults stay active and healthy. Similarly, another study conducted by the National Poll on Healthy Aging studied 2,051 adults between the ages 50 to 80. Half of these adults owned a dog. Out of them, 88 percent said that their dogs helped them live life to the fullest, and 86 percent said that their pets helped validate them.

Let’s explore how dogs can help seniors:

1. Ease Pain

According to a study conducted in 2021 in Pain Magazine, therapy dogs have been able to lower pain and emotional distress in patients who are chronically in pain. The Science journal also reports that adults only have to look into a dog’s eyes for five minutes to feel a surge of oxytocin- the feel-good hormone- in their veins.

There is no denying that dogs help distract adults, including seniors. As we age, there are numerous problems we come across, from aching bones to forgetfulness. However, dogs can help make the pain and anxiety better by always providing seniors with company and encouraging them to be active and happy.

2. Follow a Routine

Growing older means losing a routine. You no longer have a job to wake up for each morning or a child to tend to every day. This is why many seniors become lonely, docile, and start to feel depressed. The one thing that can greatly help is having a sense of purpose.

Having a dog helps bring back that sense of purpose. It ensures that an adult’s cognitive abilities do not decline as they need to constantly care for their pet. They wake up every morning knowing that they need to feed, bathe, and walk their dog; otherwise, they will get anxious. Caring for someone else helps one care for their own needs while filling in empty hours and keeping the mind active.

3. Make People Friendlier

Have you noticed how when dogs are brought into a room, they become the center of attention almost instantly? This is especially true if dogs are brought into therapy homes as seniors are compelled to talk to one another and interact.

Loneliness can be deadly. Not only does it lead to depression, but it also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. A journal helped analyze 70 studies that showed that 3.4 million adults who socially isolate themselves are 70 percent more likely to lose their lives in the next few years. However, 65% of the people who owned dogs said that their pets helped them stay connected to other people in their lives.

Old people usually spend so much time alone that they forget how to interact with strangers. Having a pet makes interaction necessary. Not only do they have to indulge their dogs in activities, but they also have to meet neighbors when taking their dog out for a walk. Playdates with the dogs of the street is also a common activity that many seniors enjoy being a part of.

4. Keep them Active

Studies claim that adults who are 65 years of age and above must try to fit in 2.5 hours of exercise each day. This does not mean they have to indulge in any rigorous exercise. In fact, brisk walking and aerobics will also do.

A study published in 2017 in The Gerontologist showed that 78% of dog owners believed that their pets helped them stay active. Moreover, it also proved that adults who walked their dogs each day were more likely to fit in more steps into their routine, leading to lower BMI and fewer visits to the doctor.

However, before adopting a dog, make sure to study what it would need. Some dogs, such as golden retrievers, require regular exercise and will definitely change their owner’s lifestyle (as well as finances!)

Things to Remember Before Getting a Dog

While having a dog is great and can help a senior’s physical and mental health, it must be kept in mind that pets are physically demanding. Before getting a dog, you must study its nature and how much exercise it would require during the day. There are many studies that show bone fractures in seniors as a result of walking their dogs. Hyper-active dogs can cause seniors to misbalance and fall, increasing the risk of injury.

Moreover, pets are expensive. It is all fun and games till you notice a spike in your bills and have no idea where the money is going. The truth is that caring for a dog, taking care of its food and grooming habits, and dog accessories can increase costs. Hence, make sure to look at your budget before you decide to get a pet. Remember, a dog is a responsibility. While it may encourage motivation and bring feelings of happiness, it must be fed and cared for properly.

If a dog is not cared for properly, it may also bring diseases and illnesses into your home. Hence, it is necessary that you take it to the vet every now and then to ensure that it is healthy. When pets go for a walk, it is common for them to pick up bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi on the way. However, these can be harmful to older adults, especially because as you grow older, your immune system is compromised.

Bottom Line

There are numerous physical and emotional health benefits for keeping a dog at home. However, seniors should be able to care for the dog, feed it on time, take it for a walk, ensure monthly grooming, and regular visits to the vet. If you think that you can handle this, getting a dog is the best thing you can do!

by Maria A Davidson || You can’t buy love, but you can rescue it™

Facts About Animal Homelessness:

  1. Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home.
  2. The main reasons animals are in shelters: owners give them up, or animal control finds them on the street.
  3. Each year, approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes. Act as a publicist for your local shelter so pets can find homes. Sign up for Shelter Pet PR.
  4. Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  5. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners.
  6. 25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.
  7. About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.
  8. It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
  9. Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. Overpopulation, due to owners letting their pets accidentally or intentionally reproduce, sees millions of these “excess” animals killed annually.
  10. Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.
  11. According to The Humane Society, there are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America.

Here are a some adoptions for consideration: