4 Ways Dogs Enrich the Lives of Older People
We’ve all heard the saying that “a dog is man’s best friend.” This saying is especially true for older individuals. Research shows that that pets benefit their owners – both young and old – physically, psychologically and socially. Here are just a few of the remarkable ways that our furry children enrich our lives.
First and foremost, dogs provide us with a sense of connectedness, of belonging, of being needed. For older people who live alone or cannot leave the house easily, a dog can be a great companion, reducing feelings of isolation, while providing companionship and someone to talk to. Loneliness can lead to depression which, in turn, can result in physical ailments, so the need for companionship is far from a superficial need. For those able to get out and walk, dogs provide a great way to connect with neighbors and other dog owners who are also out walking their canine companions. And dog parks can be great places to meet new people with our pooches providing the perfect conversational ice-breaker.
Dogs are territorial and most breeds will go on “high alert” when a stranger comes knocking. As a result, dogs provide early detection of potential “stranger danger,” giving its owner an opportunity to take protective measures. For those of us not used to living alone, and who may become anxious when “…things go bump in the night,” can relax, knowing that our canine companions do not sense a threat. In addition, knowing that a given property is home to a protective, barking dog can be a deterrent to burglars.
Encouraging Healthy Behavior
All dogs require exercise and it’s difficult to say no when our pooch is excitedly wagging its tail with the prospect of an outdoor experience. As a result, we are much more apt to put down the TV remote, pull on our sneakers, and head outdoors for some exercise and sunshine. Older people should select a breed requiring less physical activity and who are a better match for those with limited abilities. There are plenty of breeds happy with a shorter walk or a quick romp around the yard for a game of fetch. Older dogs are also a great choice as they are less active than their younger counterparts and less-likely to be adopted. Adopting an elderly dog provides the added benefit of rescuing him or her from possible euthanasia.
Creating a Sense of Purpose
Many elderly individuals, who have spent a large portion of their lives caring for their children and building their careers, feel a void in their lives after retirement and once the kids are grown. Dogs are excellent at filling this void as they require similar love, support, and guidance as do children. The best part? They will never talk back! Dogs shower their owners with unconditional love and affection and are happiest just being around their loved ones.