By Dr. Becker
Dog ownership makes sense for Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964.
There are countless benefits to sharing life with a dog, especially for people in their 50s and 60s who are retired or planning for retirement.
A canine companion can help you stay physically fit and give you a reason to get up every day.
A Dog Can Keep You Fit
For many of us, it gets harder to stay in shape as we age. However, studies show that people who take their dogs on regular walks are more likely to be in better physical shape than people who walk with other people (or not at all).
About half of all dog walkers get an average of 30 minutes of exercise, a minimum of 5 days a week.
Dog walkers also have a higher overall level of moderate and vigorous physical activity than people without dogs, and spend more of their leisure time in energetic pursuits like sports and gardening.
A Dog Can Help You Stay Healthy
One of the “benefits” of being a Baby Boomer are the inevitable aches and pains of an aging body. The good news? There is ample scientific evidence that dog ownership can positively influence a number of medical conditions, including:
Studies show that interacting with pets is actually more beneficial than interacting with friends when it comes to your blood pressure. Human friends can be judgmental – your four-legged canine companion accepts you exactly as you are.
A Dog Can Help You Make Friends
Dogs are natural icebreakers. They open the door for conversations with other dog parents and friendly strangers, which can be tremendously helpful for retired Baby Boomers or those who have recently relocated.
Dog ownership has a way of helping others see you in a more human light. It shows you have an open heart, and presents new avenues for socialization for both you and your canine companion.
A Dog Gets You Up and Going Every Day
After retirement, it can sometimes be tempting to keep the blinds drawn and hang around the house in your pjs all day. If you give into temptation too often, though, you wind up feeling sluggish, unproductive, and even isolated.
Your dog thrives on structure and consistency in her daily life, and she’s depending on you to be fed, walked, exercised, and loved. Studies show that dog guardians have a higher degree of self-discipline than people without pets.
A Dog Can Sense Your Moods
No matter your age, it’s a real blessing to have someone in your life who is sensitive to your moods and is there for you, no matter what.
Studies show that your dog’s brain reacts to voices and sounds like crying or laughter, in the same way yours does. Many dogs respond to human crying with submissive body language (tucking their tails, bowing their heads), which is consistent with empathy.
A Dog Can Improve the Quality of Your Life
For many older people, having a dog means the difference between a life lived and a life merely endured. Dogs help us stay safe and independent: They can be ears for the deaf, eyes for the blind, and an early warning system for danger (real and imagined!).
A Dog Can Make You a Better Person
Dogs have much to teach us if our hearts are open. They teach us to be patient, uncomplaining, and without judgment. They show us what gratitude looks like. They are models for living each day to the fullest. They show us devotion without limits, and unconditional love.
Article originally published, October 23, 2015