Heading into retirement can be an exciting time, but it might also feel daunting. Work once took up hours of your day that you now have to fill yourself. Plus, getting up and going in the morning meant you stayed active. Without a schedule, it can be easy to lose track of time.
On top of that, many seniors grapple with the loneliness that comes with aging. Perhaps you’ve lost loved ones, or your friends have moved to a warmer spot for retirement. Either way, isolation can sometimes make this time sans work less sweet.
Fortunately, you can combat these issues and lead a happier life with a four-legged friend by your side. In fact, we believe every senior should have a dog — here’s why:
1. Dogs Create A Daily Routine
Once upon a time, you got up, got ready and headed to the office. You worked for about eight hours. Then, you came home, had dinner and relaxed before bed. The next day, you woke up and did it all again — until the weekend, when a break from your routine was a welcome change.
Now, though, you don’t have a workplace to which you have to report. Instead, time itself is the only thing you have to fill each day. While it’s liberating, it can leave you scratching your head as to what to do with yourself. For many of us, a routine provides us with comfort rather than constriction, so a lack of structure can leave you feeling lost.
Having a dog in your life can change all of that. Dogs thrive on routine — they wake up around the same time each day to go for a morning walk. You can feed them afterward, then plan for another walk and feeding in the evening. During the day, your pooch might want to play or snuggle, which you’ll look forward to as well.
Once you have your dog’s schedule down, you’ll feel that comforting structure positively influencing your day. Perhaps you’ll slot in some activities around your pup’s — with an outline of must-dos, you’ll have no problem keeping yourself occupied on your retirement schedule.
2. Dogs Help You Exercise
Your pup’s presence will also inspire you to move more. Your dog will probably want to go on at least one long walk each day. The time outdoors is good for your pup — they’ll burn energy and get exercise. Staying active is vital to your health, too.
Seniors reap a slew of benefits from regular exercise, including increased flexibility and clearer mental functioning. Exercise can also prevent — or, at least, stall — the loss of muscle mass, which happens naturally in our bodies. Most adults lose between 3% and 8% of their muscle mass each decade after their 30s. As muscles disappear, so does a bit of mobility and balance. You might find it becomes tougher to perform activities that once felt easy.
Regular exercise can seriously slow down this process while keeping you happy and healthy. Getting on your feet and walking the dog is one great method for doing so. Plus, knowing your pup needs to exercise too will keep you dedicated to your routine.
3. Dogs Provide Companionship
As of 2019, one in three seniors reportedly felt lonely. Such a sentiment proved to be dangerous to their health. Without companionship, elderly adults might start to feel anxious and depressed. Their memory could begin to deteriorate. Some suffered from a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and even early death because they felt alone and isolated. Loneliness had the same damaging potential as smoking, and it could be even more harmful than a sedentary lifestyle or being overweight.
Having a dog around can bring a new spark into your life. Your pup will depend on you, perhaps providing you with a renewed sense of purpose. Plus, dogs show their love for you through kisses and cuddles. You can interact with your four-legged friend with pets and playtime. Each interaction will make you feel a whole lot less lonely at a time when isolation can severely affect your health.
4. Dogs Inspire Socialization
Your dog can serve as a companion and might even help you find new human friends along the way. Taking a walk with your furry friend will certainly put you in contact with other pup owners. It’s normal to strike up a conversation on the dog-walking trail — you never know, a chat about your dogs could bring you a new friend in the neighborhood.
Creating and maintaining friendships has its own health-centric benefits. Like dogs, the human friends you make on the trail can sharpen your mind. Your pals can provide support during tough times, and they can inspire you to exercise, too. Imagine — you might make a dog-walking buddy who can make your daily jaunts even more beneficial and enjoyable for you.
5. Dogs Reduce Stress
A new pooch can ward off any lingering stress you feel — a feeling that presents itself in numerous ways. For starters, the simple act of petting a dog can stoke the production of oxytocin, which is your body’s stress-relieving hormone.
A pup’s presence can also ward off high blood pressure. Dog owners who suffered from high blood pressure could better regulate their numbers in times of stress, according to a 2001 study.
Chronic stress could also be a factor in heart attacks since it exposes the cardiovascular system to high levels of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. Those with pets may find themselves more adept at surviving after a heart attack. One study found that pup owners survived at least a year after suffering such a major health crisis. Since dogs help relieve stress, having a canine companion could certainly help someone ward off another heart attack down the line.
Plus, regular dog walks mean you’ll be spending more time outdoors. A walk in nature can help fizzle stress, as can the support your pup provides. Even in tough times, your dog will greet you with a tail wag and a smile. That kind of companionship could be enough to diminish your anxiety.
6. Dogs Serve as Security
On the list of dog breeds best suited to seniors, you’ll find plenty of small dogs like Pomeranians or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. However, having even a little dog around can provide you with a sense of security. Even the tiniest pups can come with big barks — and loud barking could be enough to scare off a potential intruder, who won’t be able to tell how big the dog is on the other side of the door.
Plus, hearing your pooch bark can warn you something’s amiss. Whether you need to flee or call the police, having a few warning barks can make it possible for both of you to get to safety.
You might also want a dog at home if you have an ongoing health issue, such as seizures. Trained therapy pups can sense when you’re about to suffer a seizure. Knowing what’s about to happen — and calling for help with plenty of time — can add to your feelings of security.
7. Dogs Remind Us How To Live
Your dog doesn’t worry about the future. Instead, your furry friend derives all joy from the current moment. Having a four-legged companion can help you to do the same. You might find yourself welcoming the future because your dog helps you to forget your fears. You’ll feel more relaxed with a pet by your side, which will help you to enjoy every little life event a bit more. You can truly immerse yourself in the activities you want to enjoy now that you don’t have to work anymore.
Having a dog also means you’re committing to living well. You can look forward to each day and all the pleasant surprises it brings. You and your dog will make it a good one.
Partner With A Pup
Dogs make the perfect companion for people of any age, and four-legged friends provide more than just fun and friendship for seniors. They can create an entirely new way of life for you.
Just be sure you’re ready to bring a dog into the fold before you do it. A dog can be a pricey addition to the family, so check in with your checkbook before buying or adopting a pet.
Then, research the right breed for you. You can, of course, consider adopting a dog as well. Be clear with the shelter or rescue organization that you need a gentler pooch. Bringing home an energetic, larger dog could be a mismatch for what you need at this juncture.
Once you finish all of your planning and research, you can confidently bring home the perfect four-legged friend for you. Then, all you have to do is enjoy your life together. The above seven benefits will be just the beginning — soon, you’ll see all of the best sides of having a dog by your side, and you’ll never want to go back.