Getting older comes with its fair share of challenges. You might not be as nimble. Energy levels can drop. Loss is also incredibly common the older you get. All of these changes can take a toll on the body and the soul.
As such, it’s important to seek specialized care. That being said, you can also make changes in your personal life to accommodate some of the changes associated with aging. Most turn to self-care or eating healthier, but, have you ever considered how a dog might help?
Maybe you already have an older dog at home, but you’re not fully appreciating how much they can help you. Or, maybe you’ve always wanted a dog but you’ve never taken the plunge. You might find that you have a lot in common with a senior dog, and when you realize that, you’ll also start to see how much they can help you find comfort through the aging process.
The Risks of Getting Older
We probably don’t have to tell you about all of the issues that come from getting older. If you’re reading this, you might be feeling your fair share of them right now. But, understanding some of the mental and physical health risks that increase with age can make it easier to prepare yourself and prioritize your health. Some of those risks include:
- Hearing loss;
- Back and neck pain;
It’s also not uncommon for aging individuals to struggle with their mental well-being, including having an increased risk of developing depression. This increased risk can be attributed to a lot of risk factors of an aging lifestyle — the biggest is loneliness and isolation. Isolation has even been linked to a lower mortality rate.
An older dog can’t completely erase existing health issues. However, they may be able to address some of these risk factors that can affect your mental and physical health.
How a Furry Companion Can Help
First, aging pets make excellent companions. We’ve focused a lot on dogs here, but senior cats can be great friends, too, especially if you get a lap cat that wants to spend all of its time curled up with you. Whatever type of pet you have or decide to get, let them “work their magic” when it comes to combatting loneliness.
Help Lower Stress
A pet can also help you cope with any stressors in life. For example, it’s not uncommon for older adults to downsize, especially after retirement and during the “empty nest” period when kids have moved out. Downsizing can be a stressful process, but it can also force you to change your lifestyle, or even serve as a reminder that you’re not surrounded by the people you once were.
A pet can help you work through those changes. They will stay with you through everything, so even if your life feels like it’s being flipped upside down, they’ll remain a constant in your life. That, alone, is incredibly comforting and can make any major life transition much easier to deal with.
Improve Mental Health
Your furry companion can also help to boost your mental and physical health simply by being there. They can boost mental health, and encourage you to stay more active. An older pet probably isn’t going to want to run a mile every morning (thankfully), but they’ll be happy with a walk around the block, which can help you to get moving, too.
Help to Create a Safe Environment
Finally, a pet can inspire you and encourage you to be more creative by offering a safe environment for you to be yourself. Creativity is incredibly important for older adults. It helps with everything from problem-solving to communication. It can also keep your mind sharp, which is essential in preventing symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. Your pet can help to encourage creativity by “forcing” you to spend more time in nature, socialize, or just feel calm enough to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
We could talk about the benefits of pets for older adults all day — especially older pets. But, each pet-owner relationship is unique. If you have an aging pet already, there are likely personal benefits you’ve experienced that you can’t begin to explain. If you don’t already have a pet, don’t let your age stop you from exploring your options.
It’s Never Too Late to Get a Pet
You’ve probably heard of the old adage about not teaching an old dog new tricks. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter when you’re looking for a canine companion. Sadly, this preconception about older dogs is often reflected in the shelter — adoption rates for senior dogs in shelters are significantly lower than they are for younger pets. It’s heartbreaking to think about a dog living out its golden years in a kennel without receiving the love they deserve each day.
Unfortunately, far too many people don’t see the benefits of adopting an older dog — but there are plenty.
If you’ve been considering getting a pet but you’re worried that your own age might make it hard to keep up with a puppy, think about adopting a senior dog. Some of the benefits include:
- They’re more likely to be housebroken and trained;
- They’re more laid back;
- Less energy;
- They require less supervision;
- They’re appreciative of your love.
Elderly pets just want to be loved like everyone else, but if you’re moving at a slower pace or don’t have the time or energy to deal with a puppy, you might find that an older dog is more “your speed”. Plus, most senior dogs are already socialized, so even if you do want to take them to the park or enjoy a walk around the neighborhood, you likely don’t have to worry as much about them pulling on the leash or getting aggressive with other animals.
It’s never too late to consider the benefits of simply having a four-legged friend in your home. Take the time to appreciate all they do, all they give, and the unconditional love they provide.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer and pet parent from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for animal rights and search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on her Contently.