How Dogs Help Seniors Thrive

Oct 24 2017

How Dogs Help Seniors Thrive

There’s no magic recipe to ensure that we live longer, but one thing is certain: dogs can help.

There is nothing quite like playing fetch with a bouncing bundle of energy or cuddling up on the couch with your dog to enjoy a night of television. For years, many people have believed that animals offer emotional relief and assist the healing process. Now research and studies are backing that up.

Therapy and service pets have become increasingly common over the last few decades, helping people with hearing loss, limited mobility, and vision loss, too. They’re also helpful for those with mental illnesses, autism, and more. For heart attack patients, a dog can increase their life expectancy. Just the act of petting an animal can boost the mood, lower blood pressure, decrease loneliness, and reduce the risk of heart attack.

Whether a senior takes a dog for a companion, or for service, there are plenty of incredible benefits with a dog as your companion.

Service Animal

There are a number of tasks that the ADA has deemed that a service animal can be beneficial for, for both psychological and physical disabilities. The pets have to be given professional training and offer specific support services.
For a senior with mobility challenges, a dog can help retrieve items, respond to an emergency situation, and even manage the medication schedule.

Thousands of people with vision or hearing impairments rely on the assistance of a service dog to cross the street, navigate, and to alert the handler to emergencies or danger. They also alert them when someone is at the door, of it the phone is ringing.

Companion

Retirement is meant to be an epic time for seniors, but unfortunately, it often results in isolation and a feeling of restlessness. While some loved ones have passed on, often others are out of state or unable to visit often because they’re caught up in their own lives. A dog offers companionship, which staves off feelings of loneliness and isolation. They don’t care about the person’s abilities or age, they’re just interested in the affection and unconditional love that they share with their owner.

For seniors who live on their one, a dog offers companionship and a feeling of safety, too.

Exercise Buddy

This is a big one, dogs offer their humans a sense of purpose. Seniors have someone that needs to be looked after, fed, and exercised on a daily basis. This is especially helpful for seniors who are struggling with grief, life changes, or depression.

Dogs force a routine, from the early morning walk, breakfast, and beyond. They force owners out of the home and out for exercise. In fact, dog owners over 65 tend to exercise 22 minutes a day extra versus their non-dog owning counterparts.

You’re not just walking your dog; your dog is walking you. A trip to the park could lead to a new friendship.

Dogs provide a sense of nurturing, commitment, responsibility, and in turn, seniors have a connection, they stay active, and maintain a schedule.

It doesn’t have to hurt your wallet either, there are plenty of rescue centers and animal charities that would be happy to help you rehome the dog of your dreams. The size of the dog shouldn’t matter too much, though, there are dogs that require more activity than others. You may want to consider that before settling on a dog, for instance, Dalmatians are highly strung thus need a lot of activity, while Greyhounds enjoy relaxing on the couch so don’t require as much exercise.

You may also want to consider the weather in your area before choosing a specific dog.

 

 

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