Whether it's an extra-large, full-grown Great Dane or a tiny, bouncy Dachshund, one thing is for sure — when you see a dog, you kind of freak out. You may squeal from a distance or ask the owner to let you pet their pooch. Either way, you love dogs. They make you happy. And your attention makes them happy too.
Therefore, you already know what a joy a four-legged friend can be, whether or not the dog is yours. It turns out that, on top of that, dogs can provide their owners — especially elderly ones — with benefits that go beyond the joy of seeing a furry Fido on the sidewalk.
What kind of good can a pooch do? Read on to find out.
Pups Stimulate the Mind
Once someone retires, day-to-day life can become quite routine. They may see friends or family, go to the store, cook or catch a thought-provoking TV show. But they might also spend a lot of time in solitude too.
In the build-up to getting a dog, though, many elderly owners have been known to go above and beyond the call of pet-parent duty by reading up on dog breeds, choosing the right type of pooch and then brushing up on dog care tips so that they know just how to raise their new pup. This time spent reading, researching and learning is stimulating, especially when it's part of an otherwise routine daily schedule.
Doggos Provide Therapeutic Benefits
You might already be somewhat familiar with the fact that simply being in the presence of a dog has therapeutic benefits. These benefits are especially apparent in seniors.
A 15-minute period is all it takes for most older adults to experience the feel-good benefits of being in a doggo's presence. Petting and playing with a pooch initiates a series of feel-good chemical reactions within the brain. It can reduce one's level of cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone because it's released when a person is under duress either physically, mentally or both.
Just a quarter of an hour can help the elderly feel less anxiety and lower their blood pressure levels and their heart rates. Now, imagine the long-term effects of having a dog around regularly. Research has shown that a real relationship with a pooch can reduce depression and instances of heart disease in the elderly. Now, that's a pretty spectacular benefit.
Pooches Become Pals — an Outlet the Elderly Crave
For many in the elderly population, life was once full of responsibilities. From caring for their parents to raising children to maintaining a strong bond with their spouse, most older people have lived lives rich with close family relationships that made them feel social, loved and fulfilled.
Later in life, though, those types of responsibilities lessen. Instead, their kids take care of themselves, while other members of the family may have passed away or gone into assisted living facilities. That's where a new pooch comes in — they need an owner to take care of them, and a senior can easily fill that role.
Having a pet can make them feel needed and fulfilled again, and they're much less likely to feel lonely with a four-legged friend to care for round-the-clock.
Fidos Facilitate Physical Activity
Once upon a time, the elderly person in your life was very active. He or she raised children, worked, exercised and otherwise zoomed in and out of the house. Once retirement rolls around, though, much of this busyness is replaced with well-earned relaxation, but that can come at a cost.
It's vital that seniors continue to take part in physical activity. It helps boost their moods, build up their bodily strength and recover from injury or medical procedures. Dogs help them get some regular movement and cardiovascular exercise. Daily walks mean both dog and owner get some exercise.
Four-Legged Friends Have a Fresh Outlook on Life
It's very rare that you'll see a depressed, downtrodden dog. Even strays will great you with a wag of the tail, simply happy to be alive and have the day. They're cheerful when they're walking, joyous to be eating and content while snoozing on a pillow. In short, everything makes a dog happy — everything happening in the present.
This type of outlook isn't lost on anyone, especially their elderly owners. The pooch perspective is focused purely on the present. Dogs don't worry about tomorrow, and this type of attitude can be sagacious the elderly, who may spend too much time worrying about what the future will bring. For that reason alone, a happy-go-lucky dog is a perfect companion for a senior citizen.
Now, Pick Your Pet
Having a dog around is of great benefit to the elderly for multiple reasons. If you're prepared to pick out the perfect pet for yourself or for the senior in your life, be sure you're doing it right — the wrong pooch-person pair would not impart as many of the feel-good benefits as you seek for your family member or friend.
It's important to consider the pet's personality, as well as any physical limitations that its future owner may have. You don't want to pair a senior with a rambunctious, strong dog who might pull on walks, for example. A calm, gentle pooch that listens well is a better companion for an elderly owner in most cases.
So, all there's left to do is find a four-legged partner in happiness. It's just as good for the elderly as it is for the dog that's adopted. It’s hard to imagine a better win-win situation than that.