Many older people have dogs. Before getting a dog as a senior, you might wonder why do older people have dogs. In this article, you’ll learn how older people can benefit from having a dog.
As a general rule, older people have dogs for companionship. The bond with their dog helps to avoid loneliness and keeps them active. Older people are more physically active when having a dog because they go outside more often. Having a dog helps to increase social interaction among older people. Research shows that having a dog can also reduce stress and the risk of heart disease.
I’ll share more about the benefits of having a dog for older people. Things you need to know before getting a dog and the possible downsides of having a dog as a senior. Let’s learn more!
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Reasons Why Older People Have Dogs
There are many different reasons why someone chooses to have a dog. Some older people are looking for companionship; others just want more physical activity and feel like having a dog can help them reach that goal.
Some people have had a dog their whole life, since they were a kid, and are just used to having a dog around the house. And there are the people that have a dog without a specific reason. Sometimes it even feels like they have a dog so that they can yell at it. I know it’s weird, but I’ll share a real example of it later in this article. First, let’s find focus on a few more popular reasons why older people have dogs.
1) Companionship, Most Popular Reason To Have A Dog
Most older people have a dog for their companionship. One of the most difficult challenges for older people is loneliness. Becoming lonely is something we all want to avoid. However, with aging, the threat of loneliness is becoming more real every day.
In fact, according to a recent study from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), 25% of adults in the age of 65 and older living in the United States are considered socially isolated. Even one-third of adults in the age group of 45+ experience feelings of loneliness regularly. The CDC mentions loneliness as a serious health risk among the elderly population.
When you’re lonely or socially isolated, it’s crucial to find help, which can be difficult, but contact your doctor or someone you know and ask them for help. It’s the best thing you can do.
Suppose you want to help a lonely elderly but don’t know where to start. In that case, I recommend reading my article 15 Expert Tips How To Help Lonely Elderly.
Let’s get back to the most popular reason why older adults have a dog, for their companionship. Companionship equals fighting loneliness. We all know if we have a good friend, companion, or someone we can trust, we don’t feel lonely. The bond someone can create with their dog can also become very special. Dogs are often referred to as “a men’s best friends.”
Most dogs are very loyal and known to be happy if they see their boss/ owner. For older adults, it’s nice to have a dog around where they can share their day with. Dogs can help you feel happy again, go outside, or just relax for a while. The dogs’ instinct knows when something is wrong, and when you have a good connection with your dog, they will come to you to cheer you up.
2) To Increase Social Interaction
So, we just learned that becoming socially isolated is a significant risk for older people in the United States. 1 out of 4 older adults aged 65 is socially isolated. Having a dog is not only suitable for companionship and to find a buddy, but it’s also ideal for increasing social interaction. And thus to avoid becoming socially isolated.
Having a dog helps older adults to avoid loneliness and increase their social interaction with others. When having a dog, you get outside more often, simply because dogs need to go for a walk several times a day. During these walks, you often meet other people. Somehow, it’s easier to connect when there’s already something to talk about, like your dog. Many people create new friendships during the daily dog walks.
On average, a dog needs to go outside 3 or 4 times a day, depending on the dog breed. So, you’ll get enough time outside when you do all these walks. Many older people join a dog walking group so that they can go out with other people. This way, the activity of going outside gets fun and is perfect for social interaction. A great way to find dog walking groups close to you is by using the platform Meetup.
3) To Yell At Them
I’m writing this article while I’m on a campsite in our caravan. It’s a beautiful place here, and our neighbors happen to be an older couple with a dog. I didn’t ask them why they have a dog, but I noticed how they interact with their dog, and it occurred to me that it can be a reason for people to have a dog. It’s a little different than only for companionship or increases their social interaction. It feels like they only have their dog to yell at him, so they can focus their frustrations on their dog.
When their dog barks, they instantly react with ‘SHUT UP!’ It doesn’t matter if it barks because another dog crosses or the dog greets one of its owners. With every bark, we hear an ‘SSST,’ ‘SHUT UP!’ or ‘STOP BARKING!’
When their dogs jump happily around their caravan, they instantly react with ‘GO BACK TO YOUR PLACE.’
It’s like they have a dog to get rid of their own frustration and aggression. It wouldn’t be my first choice to have a dog, but it might work for some people. Personally, I just feel sorry for the dog, but then again, he seems a happy dog.
4) For Physical Activity
Many older people focus their way of life on healthy aging in mind. They avoid things like fast food because it increases their chances of becoming more unhealthy. According to the CDC, one of the most important things someone can do for healthy aging is getting enough physical activity.
Somehow we just don’t move enough. The BLS Time Use Survey shows that retirees and older adults spend most of their time watching TV instead of getting more physical activity! Move More, and Sit Less is the CDC’s slogan when it comes to physical activity for older adults.
Having a dog helps seniors to move more and sit less. The CDC mentions their physical activity recommendations to move at least 150 minutes a week when an older adult is in a general health condition. This recommendation comes down to around half an hour a day.
You’ll quickly reach these recommendations when you have a dog when you do like three walks a day. Most people walk their dogs for around one hour for each walk. And when you go for dog walking with a walking group or with friends, the walks are often much longer because of the social interaction you’ll get.
Walking or hiking, which is walking in a more natural outdoor environment, is one of the best activities the elderly can do to stay fit. Read more about the benefits of hiking in my article, The Complete Guide Why Hiking Is Good For Seniors
Is It Good For Older People To Have A Dog?
In general, it’s good for older adults to have a dog. According to many studies, stress reductions, lower risk of heart disease, and increased social interaction are the most regular benefits for dog owners.
We just discussed the most popular reasons why older people have a dog. You might have noticed that many of these reasons are related to the feeling of well-being among older adults. So this is why older adults can highly benefit from having a dog.
5) Lower Risk of Heart Disease
According to a Swedish study mentioned in Harvard Health Publishing, dog owners are less likely to die of heart disease. In the study, which took 12 years and included 3.4 million Swedish adults, researchers used the data from national health resources and dog ownership registers. They found that dog owners had a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
The researchers say it was the largest study focused on dog ownership and human health in history. The study was published in 2017, but it is still relevant today. According to the researchers, dog owners are more likely to have more physical activity and social interaction than people who don’t have a dog. They say that dogs may ease stress, fight loneliness and inspire people to be more active. All elements that benefit a general health condition.
6) Boosts Your Mood & Brain
I found another interesting article from Cleveland Clinic, which states that dogs help their owners to boost their mood and keep a healthy brain. According to that article, simply petting a dog helps to lower stress levels in our bodies. So dog owners can benefit from this even more!
Also, dog owners have a sense of purpose because they love taking care of their dogs. And the extra exercise a dog owner gets from the several daily walks helps keep the brain healthy.
7) Create A Daily Structure
Many older people struggle with a daily structure. Their schedules aren’t as busy as they used to be, so it’s hard to get up in the morning and stay active. However, dog owners often don’t have this problem. For dog owners, it’s easy to get up, take care of their dog, and go for a walk.
Having a daily structure helps to stay active, to feel good. So, when you’re an older adult having trouble with creating a daily structure for yourself, you might want to think about having a dog. There are many lifestyle-related and health-related benefits of having a dog. And if you aren’t convinced yet, I recommend reading my article 10 Scientific Based Facts How Pets Help Old People
Things You Need To Know Before Getting A Dog
Older people who are getting a dog should consider some important things before actually getting one. Simply because having a dog means responsibility. Of course, the benefits are great and related to a more healthy lifestyle. However, you also need to establish if you can take care of a dog now and in the future.
So, let’s look at some important things to consider before getting a dog as a senior.
8) Activity Level of The Dog
Because many dogs have a high activity level, you need to consider if you’re up to this. For example, when your dog needs to go for a walk 4 times a day for a minimum of 2 hours, it takes a lot of time. Ask yourself if you want to spend so much time on dog walking and if you can physically do this as well. If not, find yourself a breed that needs less physical activity.
9) Dog training
Whether you get a puppy or an older dog, a dog needs training. Simple commands like sit, walk and fetch you need to learn to the dog. But also housebreaking, so the dogs learn to live in your house without peeing inside, etc.
One of the most helpful online courses for dog training is the MasterClass from Brandon McMillan, which you can find here;
10) Lifespan & Caring Costs
Depending on your age, you want to consider the lifespan of the dog. Especially when you take a puppy. Maybe you’ll outlive your dog, so that means you need to create a plan for what happens to your dog when you die. If you fail to do so, the dog will end up at a dog shelter.
Caring costs are also an essential factor to consider. You’ve worked hard to earn a good retirement, so you must calculate if you can afford to have a dog.
11) Lifestyle plan
Maybe you have planned a lifestyle in retirement without a dog, but now considering getting a dog. Figure out for yourself if having a dog and taking care of it can fit into your retirement lifestyle. When you feel you need to give up more than your will gain, having a dog is probably not something for you.
Recently, I published some other helpful articles about having a dog or pets in general as an older adult. You might find them interesting to read as well;