For many older adults, their mental and physical health can become endangered through a lack of socialization. This is an issue being addressed by many healthcare providers by suggesting that retirees adopt pets. Taking in a pet is beneficial to elderly adults for many reasons and even the responsibilities of caring for the pet can protect cognitive and physical health. By looking at the relationship between a dog and an elder owner, it's easy to see how the arrangement becomes mutually beneficial.
Dogs Help Keep Seniors Healthier
Reduce Feelings of Loneliness
One of the most obvious benefits of dog ownership for an older adult is the companionship the pet provides. Loneliness is especially problematic for older adults, who may not have very many friends, but owning a dog in retirement can solve that problem. Depending on the dog's size and behavior, they can often accompany their senior owners to run errands or on trips around town.
Getting Enough Exercise
Dogs need exercise just like human beings and they will get it one way or the other. For older adults, exercise is equally important. Research has shown that active senior adults remain physically and mentally healthy for longer, so daily walks with a dog are helpful in keeping the elder from falling into an unhealthy and sedentary way of life.
The mere presence of a dog is effective in relieving stress, which is another health danger that older adults face. Studies have found that petting a dog helps reduce stress hormones in the body and help people feel more relaxed. Seniors who experience trouble sleeping also sleep better, when they have a dog by their side.
Dogs Need Emotional Support Too
Separation Anxiety Can Be a Problem
Many experienced dog owners know that preventing separation anxiety is important because the disorder can result in destructive behavior. Most will wonder, “What can I give my dog for anxiety?” The solutions range from calming CBD oil to sleep-inducing antihistamines, with a number of prescription options in between.
While treatment options are important, preventative techniques are also worth trying. When seniors first adopt a pet, it's important to ignore him when he follows you around the home. People should also refrain from making their departures obvious, so the pet won't get nervous or excited. Finally, the dog should be prevented from following the owner to the door, when he or she leaves. Place the dog in a crate and give him a bone or something enjoyable, so he doesn't notice that he has been left alone.
Older Dogs Need More Care
In many cases, seniors choose to adopt older dogs. This can often be a good situation for both because younger families rarely want older dogs and older people like the idea of adopting a pet that has already been trained. However, the elder person should be aware that senior dogs do require special attention. Caring for an older dog requires paying more attention to the pet.
As dogs age, they suffer joint pain and stiffness, often developing arthritis. Sound familiar? This means comfortable bedding should be provided at floor level since they will be less likely to jump up on beds and sofas. Their bedding should be placed in a warm area, near a space heater or an HVAC vent. This can help the dog remain comfortable and help him sleep better.
Additionally, seniors should know to schedule frequent vet visits for the dog. Visiting a vet at least twice a year will help identify health problems early. Dogs can develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other degenerative conditions just like people. Early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate conditions more efficiently, sparing the dog from additional pain or discomfort.
Older adults enjoy great benefits of dog ownership in retirement. Often, a dog provides the companionship and relaxation senior adults need to stay healthy. While caring for a pet is a big responsibility, even that can give the elder something to focus on to help maintain strong cognitive functioning. A dog adoption benefits both the person and the dog.