Why a Dog Can Be a Great Companion for Seniors

• Written by Katie

This article was contributed by Annie Button

Have you ever wondered if now is a good time to get a dog? We all know how important it is to stay active and engaged, so anything you can do to improve your health and wellbeing is surely worth considering. Dog ownership is often hailed as the perfect solution. It makes us get out of the house and exercise more, reduces stress and loneliness, and adds more joy to our lives. In short, the benefits of dog ownership can be life-enhancing.

But if you’re on the fence, or not quite convinced whether a dog is right for you, read on. We’ve put together six reasons why a canine companion may be exactly what you need at this stage in your life.

6. Dogs: Man’s Best Friend

It is a well-known fact that dogs give love freely and without judgement – unlike many people. They are always happy to greet you with tail wags, nuzzles, and kisses, regardless of the mood you’re in or any challenges you may be facing. Dogs have a way of lifting your spirit with their positivity and joy. Together, the good days are better and the hard days hurt less.

Playing with or cuddling a dog is a simple way to relax, improve your state of mind, and bring more laughter and enjoyment into your life. Research has shown that time spent with dogs decreases stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. A recent Japanese study found that spending 30 minutes with a pet can increase our oxytocin levels by as much as 300%, eliciting feelings of calm and contentment. Unconditional love and constant affection from dogs make them natural stress relievers and mood boosters.

5. Replacing Boredom with a Healthy Routine

Caring for a dog creates structure and gives purpose to a daily life that may no longer be centred around jobs and children. Feeding, walking, training, grooming, and playing with your furry pal will motivate you to get up and be active. The simple tasks of putting out food and water or taking your pet for a walk will similarly add regular routine.

For many dog owners, the benefits of a faithful canine companion far outweigh the responsibilities. Yes, dogs require time, money, and commitment. Your home may also need more cleaning attention. But they repay you many times over through the joy, laughter, and love they bring. Overall, opening your heart and home to a new puppy or an older dog in need of adoption may be one of the best ways to combat boredom or lack of motivation in your golden years.

4. Your Trusted Personal Protection Officer

For many elderly people, especially those living on their own, a dog provides an effective and comforting layer of protection against potential crime. Whether you’re choosing a proper guard dog or a smaller companion breed, any companion constitutes a good burglar deterrent. While motion-sensor lights, cameras, and alarms are great home security devices, there’s nothing quite like a barking dog to scare off anyone up to no good.

Dogs can also provide protection within the home, warning owners of household dangers. Their keen senses detect threats long before our human noses or alarm systems. Here’s just one of many stories of dogs saving lives by waking their humans during the early stages of a house fire, so they could evacuate in time. Not all dogs may be able to provide professional fire detection, but their allegiance to their owner and sensitive noses make them far more prepared to sense environmental risks than we can.

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3. Help with Tasks and Household Chores

When you’re getting older, having a companion dog around the house can provide help with basic chores and tasks. Dogs can be trained to open and close doors, carry post and newspapers in, or take rubbish bags out, making your life a little easier. Your pet’s keen senses and ability to retrieve can also assist in locating lost or misplaced items like glasses, keys, or the television remote control.

A specially trained service dog or assistance dog can help maintain independence for those with limited mobility or disabilities. These dogs can perform important duties such as fetching items, assisting with dressing or grooming, helping with laundry, opening doors, turning on lights, and much more. Did you know that service dogs for people living with dementia are trained to assist with wayfinding, provide medication reminders, and comfort you during episodes of distress? Certain breeds of dogs have a natural talent for doing amazing service work, including Labradors and Golden Retrievers, Collies and German Shepherds.

2. Opportunities for Outdoor Exercise

Dogs require daily exercise and activity, encouraging you as an owner to get outside and go for walks. For seniors, walking a dog provides motivation and means for much-needed physical activity that also enhances health and wellbeing. Multiple studies show dog walking leads to increased mobility and fewer physical limitations as we age.

Simply walking a dog for 30 minutes a day can drastically improve your cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and endurance. Stretching before and after a walk enhances flexibility, whilst the fresh air and vitamin D gained during outdoor activity has been shown to boost mood and ease symptoms of depression. Staying active by walking and exercising with your dog leads to both physical and mental benefits.

What’s more, a dog makes the perfect walking companion. Their enthusiasm and playfulness make the time outside pass quickly while motivating us to venture further and do more. Many older people find that walking with a dog gives them a renewed interest in activities they previously did alone. The bond formed with a dog enhances the experience of hiking, jogging, or any outdoor pursuit.

1. Dogs are Natural Social Facilitators

A dog not only provides constant companionship but also acts as a catalyst for making new connections with others – they’re natural social facilitators. Trips to the local dog park or beach bring chances to socialise with people you might otherwise never meet. Many people feel less hesitant to approach and interact with fellow dog walkers and dog owners. The presence of a pet is often all that’s needed to start conversations, build familiarity, and cross the invisible obstacles that often inhibit new relationships from forming later in life.

4 Tips Before Getting a Dog

Opening your heart and home to a dog may be one of your best decisions for health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life, but it comes with great responsibility, too. Dog ownership requires time, patience, money, and commitment. With that in mind, before getting a dog, here are four tips you should consider:

1. Make sure you can properly care for a dog. Consider your physical abilities, access to veterinary care, finances, housing situation, mobility, etc. Choose wisely between getting a puppy or an older, less active dog – which best matches your lifestyle?

2. Prepare for the additional work. Dogs need to be walked, fed, groomed, and given attention daily. Be ready to commit the time and effort required to care for a dog. Contact reputable breeders, or speak to your local dog shelter about adoption.

3. Owning a dog is the perfect opportunity to reach out into your community and socialise with other dog owners. Find out what’s happening locally so you can meet new people and strengthen your support network and circle of friends, and combat isolation.

4. Be prepared to become more active. Dogs and exercise often go hand-in-hand. Walking and playing with a dog provides motivation and the ability to stay active and independent. Even lower-energy activities help you bond, and enhance physical and mental health.

Extra Reassurance from LifeConnect24

A dog can be an ideal companion at home. However, for further peace of mind in an emergency, consider a personal alarm from LifeConnect24. With a personal alarm, it’s easy to call for help if you experience a fall or otherwise need support. Our pendant alarms can be activated with a press of a button. Alternatively, choose fall detection for automatic alerts after a fall. When your alarm is activated, our team answer and arrange help on your behalf. These can involve calling your emergency contacts or, if necessary, the emergency services.

To find out more, read our in-depth guide or get in touch. You can order your personal alarm online today, or by calling our helpful team on 0800 030 8999.

LifeConnect24 Personal Alarm supports you at home 24/7
LifeConnect24 Automatic Fall Detector 24/7 monitoring
LifeConnect24 Personal Alarm supports you at home 24/7
LifeConnect24 Personal Alarm supports you at home 24/7
LifeConnect24 Personal Alarm supports you at home 24/7
LifeConnect24 Automatic Fall Detector 24/7 monitoring
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