Having a dog is one of the healthiest investments you can make to your long-term health and happiness. We know that having a dog enriches our lives, and scientific studies in the last decade, have clearly shown how canine companions benefit both our bodies and our minds. Apart from lazy days in the sun, walking, fetching, and guaranteed smiles throughout the day, dogs provide health benefits that extend far into the body and mind, such as lower blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety level, as well as providing dog owners with both consistent behavior and unconditional love and affection. Dogs in return, respond well to stability and the love and affection dog owners lavish upon them.
For decades, dogs have been known to improve the lives of dog owners, significantly benefiting health, not only for the young and families, but especially for the elderly. Dogs help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and ultimately, more enjoyable lives. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published an article showing how independently living seniors with dogs tend to have better physical strength and overall mental health and wellbeing than seniors that do not have dogs. They are more active, generally happier, cope with stress better, and have much lower blood pressure.
It would seem that taking care of a dog might be a lot of work. In fact, it is that work, that maintenance – walking, grooming, fresh water, playing, petting, and feeding that lowers the heart rate, decreases anxiety and stress levels, increases serotonin, and releases beta-endorphins in dog owners. Even just getting up to open the door for a dog to be let out, or changing the water requires some cardiovascular exercise, increases joint flexibility, and keeps the joints limber and agile. Consistent minor exercise like this, ensures healthier bodies for all dog owners.
Many of the benefits of having a dog are less tangible. Dogs allow for physical contact and offer consistent companionship, as well as unconditional love. They act as a support system for older people without homes, families, or close friends. People with dogs generally remain more stable emotionally during crises than people without dogs. Dogs also offer protection socially from isolation, separation anxiety for people in nursing homes, and for people who don’t have as much opportunity to interact with other people.
Dogs help the elderly perform daily functions and stick to regular routines such as getting up every day, buying groceries, and going outside of their homes. These are all necessary physical, emotional, and social activities, that help elderly people stay active, and motivate them to eat and sleep. Through these interactions, dogs enable elders to interact with others more frequently, which lowers depression and anxiety, both frequent medical problems facing elders today.