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5 Ways Dogs can Boost the Mental and Physical Health of the Elderly

Having a dog can come with some powerful benefits, especially for the elderly. Many pet owners are well aware of the immediate joy pets bring but it is only recently that studies have shown some amazing mental and physical health benefits of having a pet around, especially for the elderly. 

This can include lowering their blood pressure, relieving stress, alleviating depression, increasing their mobility and even boosting their immunity. It is important for the elderly to choose a dog that suits their level of activity. An older, calmer dog is more suitable than a hyperactive one. 

1. Reduce anxiety

A dog can fulfill a basic human need for touch. Stroking or touching a dog can cause a person to calm down when they are experiencing stress. This is because it elevates the level of serotonin and dopamine in the body. As a dog lives in the moment and does worry too much about the past or the future, they can help the elderly to become more mindful of the present too. 

Having plants can also create a feeling of calm but seniors who want to have both plants and dogs need to be careful about which plants they buy. Jade plants, for example, are hardy and easy to take care of. 

However, they are toxic for dogs and dogs seem to like the taste of them. If seniors find a dog eating a jade plant, they can find out from ourfitpets.com on possible solutions to this issue. 

2. Increase mobility and flexibility

Dogs need exercise and this can help elderly dog owners to get more exercise too. Exercise has many different health benefits and walking a dog regularly not only improves mental wellbeing but weight, bone and heart health as well as exposure to vitamin D. The elderly who often suffer from a lack of mobility and even throwing a ball for a dog can increase flexibility. 

3. Lower blood pressure

A number of studies have found that people with pets tend to have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. There was even a study of people whose blood pressure was slightly raised and when they adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure was lower within about five months. 

As high blood pressure can have significant negative consequences on health, including increasing the risk of having a heart attack, this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

4. Promote connections

Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common amongst the elderly. They often do not have as much social interaction as they did before as illness may have taken away some of their closest friends and they may not be as mobile as before. Having a pet provides them with companionship. 

Making new friends gets harder as people get older and having a pet can help to spark a conversation with someone and brighten up an otherwise lonely day. Dark parks are a wonderful place to socialize with like-minded people. 

5. Boost the immune system

Dogs encourage playfulness and laughter, which can boost the immune system. The immune system of the elderly may be weakened by chronic health conditions, making them more prone to picking up infections. 

Dogs constantly bring new bacteria into the home. This exposure is not threatening but it can help to stimulate the immune system to provide an adequate response. 

Having a pet around can also provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment with the need for care in the form of feeding, exercising and grooming it. An increased sense of fulfillment and enjoyment of life can also boost immunity.