Old age is not gentle on our mind, body and spirit. While we humans have learnt to age gracefully and take everything that old age has to offer gracefully, we cannot deny that with age, we do have to adjust ourselves with many of the painful life realities. Old age takes a toll on physical strength but it affects us the most on emotional well being. In such situations, keeping a dog as a pet can have great positive affects. Pets, specially dogs help a lot in making old age lives smoother and happier in many ways. Let me list few of them:
Dealing with loneliness
Old age brings loneliness in many. With age, family members, including children are left with lesser and lesser time and emotional availability for the old people. Children either move out of city or become busy with their own children. Even death of either of the life partners can leave a deep void of loneliness that is difficult to fill.
Old age bring more and more reasons to stay physically active. While the energy levels deplete with time, routinely exercise everyday is beneficial for overall health. Walking the pets, chasing them and playing games with them is highly beneficial for health and can be counted as a good physical activity. Even little activities like feeding and grooming is effective enough to keep one physically active and alert. Dogs give elderly people that physical activities that they would have rather skipped out of lack of energy.
Dogs are known to relieve stress in human beings. In many special cases when elderly people suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, dogs help a lot in keeping the patients calm. Dementia patients can become very irritable because of constantly forgetting things. This stress can also amount to violent outbursts. Having furry friends around definitely reduce such episodes. Interacting with dogs can be a great mental stimulation. Training dogs, reading about dogs and pet care, researching on internet and also talking to other people about dog care can be a great source of mental exercise.
Older people with pets are known to exhibit less stress than the ones without dogs. Being with dogs help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) and help boost levels of serotonin (happy hormones). Dogs are known for their intuitive abilities. They know when someone is happy or sad. The American Heart Association released a study showing that owning or interacting with dogs can also reduce the chances of stress related heart disease.
Elderly couples who stay alone in the city are more vulnerable targets for crimes and burglary. There have been many crimes in the city against old people and sometimes they are left with no choice but to just live with fear. Keeping a dog in the house can create a fear around and also add protection to the old people. Dogs, specially guard dogs can avert potential home invasion. As territorial beings, Dogs can sniff strangers from quite a distance and also bark in the middle of the night to alert the entire neighborhood of any potential danger.
For old people, any opportunity to socialize is always welcome. At this stage when making new friends becomes more and more difficult and old associations drift away, social activities of any sort comes as a happy relief. Pets can be great ice-breakers while walking them on the street. Shared activities for pet owners ranging from charitable events and pet activities are great social activities to get involved in. If the dog loves people, he or she will earn you more friends from all age groups.
Just as companionship, understanding and devotion are beneficial to teenagers, the same is true for the elderly. The simple act of having a dog to cuddle on their lap, or to curl up at their feet can make a world of difference in the life of an elderly person.
A marketing and communications specialist by qualification and an abstract artist by design – with over a decade’s experience in both fields – Priyanka Lahiri has had a lifelong association with pets in general and dogs in particular. At present, she and her husband share their home with Loki and Stella, three-year-old Beagles that they dote on.