There are many reasons why having a dog can improve the quality of life and overall physical health and mental wellbeing of your aging loved ones. While caring for a dog comes with added responsibilities and extra expenses, the health benefits and happiness that come with being a dog owner far outweigh these hurdles. Here are just a few reasons why having a pet dog in your loved one’s home can improve their quality of life.
Keeps Their Mind and Body Active
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of owning a dog is the ways they can keep you active. This depends, of course, on the breed of dog as some are generally more active than others. Ensure to help your loved one choose a suitable breed depending on their physical health and mobility. Dogs are a great way to help your loved one get outside and walking year-round, even in the winter. You may also consider getting a rescue or an older dog that doesn’t require as much physical exercise and has less energy than a younger dog. In addition to walks, simply playing with their dog will help your loved one get in exercise. This physical activity will usually assist in improving mobility, weight loss and lower blood pressure.
In addition to its physical benefits, pets have also proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels in seniors. The studies of Dr. Lynette Hart of the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine have shown that people with Alzheimer’s have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in their home. Further, a 2002 study conducted on an Alzheimer’s special care unit found that having a resident dog (as opposed to a visiting dog) significantly improved the behavior of seniors during the day.
Offers Constant and Unconditional Love
Like many other pets, dogs have the amazing ability to love and respect their owners unconditionally. This can prove especially important for your loved one who may have recently moved into a retirement community and is currently impacted by this transition. The level of admiration and excitement your loved one’s dog provides can act as an instant mood enhancer at the best and worst of times.
Improves Their Social Life
If your loved one lives on their own or in a retirement community, there’s no denying that owning a dog will vastly improve their social life. Dogs make for great conversation starters, both among friends and strangers; and the dog-owner community is often very close-knit. Having your loved one take their dog for a walk or to the local dog park will result in consistently seeing familiar faces and may result in new friendships. Dog owners are likely to open up about their furry friends and will want to share stories about their companions.
While there are many benefits to choosing a dog for your aging loved ones, ultimately, if they’re interested in owning a pet, it should be one best suited to their state of health, mental wellbeing and environment in which they live. Dogs are loyal companions that can assist with improving your loved one’s physical and mental health, restoring their sense of purpose and bolstering their social life.