More than half of people between the ages of 50 and 80 own at least one pet, saying it makes aging feel easier, both physically and mentally. And these seniors may be on to something. Pets, dogs, in particular, can truly improve your quality of life, especially after you retire and have more time on your hands. No, a puppy may not be the best idea — they’re a ton of work! But an adolescent or older canine may be just what the doctor ordered.
1. Encourage Exercise
Dogs have a way of getting people up off the couch and into the great outdoors. Of course, you need to take them outside every few hours to go to the bathroom and walk around. And, if you end up getting an active breed like a husky or golden retriever, you’ll need to take them out more often to let them run around and release all that pent up energy. But, of course, engaging with your pet doesn’t just benefit them, it also benefits you.
By taking your pet out for walks, you get a fair amount of exercise as well, even if you aren’t chasing them around or playing fetch. By simply walking with your pooch, you can log 23,700 miles over a dog’s 12-year lifespan. And, if your fluffy friend lives longer or is especially energetic, you’ll likely walk even further than that. Naturally, all this exercise helps keep you healthy, motivated and happy, which is important as you get older and it becomes easier to simply sit in your recliner and relax all day.
2. Promote Heart Health
Dogs are also great for retirees because they promote a healthy heart. Of course, all the walks you go on with your dog likely contribute to a stronger heart, but simply owning a dog may also promote better cardiovascular health. One study found that people with hypertension who adopted a dog experienced decreased blood pressure after just a few months of ownership. And, surprisingly, just petting a dog can have the same effect. So it’s likely the entire experience of having a dog improves your heart health.
Owning a dog can also help you recover from heart issues and cardiovascular events like strokes, heart attacks and even surgeries. Often, this psychosocial support comes in the form of therapy dogs who visit you in the hospital or in recovery. But, if you have a companion of your own with you at all times, you may recover quicker. Moreover, you’ll be more motivated to complete rehabilitation programs and return to your daily routine.
3. Give You A Sense Of Purpose
Retirement isn’t the time to sit in your recliner, watch TV and munch on snacks all day. It’s the time to try new things and find new passions you hadn’t considered engaging in before. This may involve traveling, spending more time with your family or taking up simple hobbies like knitting or yoga. However, adopting and caring for a dog may also be a great way spend your free time.
Taking care of a dog may provide you with a sense of purpose like no other hobby can. With each new morning, you’ll find a reason to get out of bed and out the door — your pup! You can’t let them down, so get up, fill their food dish and take them for a walk around the block. This new routine will help keep you on a daily schedule and fill your life with purpose.
4. Make Great Friends
While it may be no fun to think or talk about, getting older can be a very lonely experience. In fact, more than 40% of senior citizens experience loneliness regularly. This can result in depression, poor sleep, high stress levels, increased blood pressure and a number of other health issues. Part of this may be due to friends getting older and passing away, living alone or being stuck in a home with very few visitors or family nearby.
But there’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend — they make the greatest companions. So, if you’re experiencing loneliness, consider adopting a furry friend. Pets are proximity-seeking, which means they want to be close to you, curl up on your lap and receive lots of pats. So, by nature, they’ll be by your side through thick and thin. Dogs also have a knack for sensing when you’re feeling down and will do their best to cheer you up.
5. Provide A Sense Of Security
Dogs are also one of the best alarm systems. If someone is trying to break into your home, they’ll immediately alert you of the situation by barking or growling. And, if you aren’t home to address the situation, your dog may even fight off intruders and scare them away. This provides a sense of security to many retirees who live alone or don’t live in a safe neighborhood or city.
In addition to warding off intruders, some dogs can actually save your life if you have a heart attack, seizure or another medical episode in which you can’t get help yourself. These medical response dogs are trained to notice your health conditions and risks and alert others if you fall, are injured or have a medical issue that prevents you from calling 911. They can also warn you of impending crisis situations in illnesses like diabetes, asthma and heart disease.
6. Promote Social Connections
Can I pet your dog? This may be the most commonly-asked questions dog owners receive when they’re out in public with their dog. Typically, they oblige with a yes, allowing their dog — and themselves — to make new friends. In this way, dogs bring people together, regardless of gender, age, race or demographic. They’re the perfect icebreaker. So, if you’re looking for a great way to improve your social skills or simply find a new friend group, a dog may be a great way in which to accomplish that.
Moreover, you can join social media groups for people who have the same dog as you or simply people who are looking for a playmate for their dog. Obviously, having a dog yourself makes you a prime candidate for these social circles. In this way, you can meet other dog owners and allow your pup to make friends too, which may even result in weekly or monthly playdates at the dog park.
7. Help You Focus On The Present
The future can be a scary thing to think about, especially as you grow older. You don’t know what tomorrow might hold, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or see others your age passing away. Dwelling on these grim thoughts won’t do anyone any good and, with the help of a dog, you don’t have to. Dogs live in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow and neither should you.
Moreover, canines accept life for what it is and they take everything as it comes — balls, food, walks and all. Living in the moment is an important life lesson and your dog can help you learn that. After all, if you don’t know how long you have left on this Earth — and no one does — then you should enjoy the present moment, right? So stop worrying, and start embracing each day with the same excitement and passion your dog has.