When you consider the challenges of growing older, a variety of unhappy situations can come to mind. Loneliness as we have less exposure to family and friends is one. Less activity may lead to feeling less self-worth. A life of responsibility becoming one of “freedom” turns out not to be the panacea that it sounded like during the years that life felt hectic. Aging sometimes isn’t all that fun.
Relief from these and other deficits of aging can be resolved fairly simply in the form of a dog. Cat lovers will forgive this, but dogs more frequently respond when they are spoken to. Cats, on the other hand, sometimes fit better in your lap – if they are in the mood. (Lizards and hamsters are not part of this analysis.)
Responsibility for a pet refocuses and replaces many of the deficits created by aging. While not great conversationalists, dogs are great listeners. Caring for them provides a sense of purpose and appreciation is expressed unabashedly. Simply having another living thing that relies on us can make us feel an increased sense of purpose and responsibility.
The simple act of walking with your dog will reduce stress and anxiety. While it might be merely a distraction, this process has the effect of centering attention around life’s uncomplicated pleasures. Animals keep us aware of immediate needs and wants, thereby reducing the opportunity to feel depressed.
The presence of an animal in an elder household has been scientifically proven to encourage positive thinking and elevate the speed of recovery when the patient is sick. The almost universal adoption of a pet therapy program in hospitals is testimony to that thesis. Social support in the form of four legs and an active tail is a proven antidote to anxiety and loneliness.
Certain breeds of dogs are more in tune with a senior lifestyle. There are many adoption programs that can match a senior’s personality and environment with the perfect pet.
It has been said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”