It is well known that senior adults benefit from regular physical activity, the most common of
which being walking. But walking a dog has even more health benefits!
University of Missouri Health performed a study clearly showing that dog walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise and an increase in social benefits for seniors (see the study here).
For many senior adults, social opportunities are increasingly tough to find, and it is easy to feel cut off from society. Pet ownership, and dog ownership in particular, provides opportunities (read: excuses) to get out of the house! When Fifi or Fido goes for a walk, his or her owner is presented with mental stimulation, physical activity, and social interactions not available at home.
Dogs open doors to quality human connections - just ask any young man who borrows a friend's dog to go to the park to pick up women.
"The biggest benefit... is purpose."
On top of the obvious physical and social benefits, it has been proven many times over that pets lower stress levels, and increase the "feel-good" chemicals in our brains (more information here).
The biggest benefit for senior adult pet ownership, in my opinion, is purpose. A reason to get out of bed each morning. A reason to go outside, or go to the store. It is very easy to fall into depression when it feels like you don't matter, but you ALWAYS matter to your dog!
Canine, feline, large or small, pets do make a difference in people's lives. If you are considering adding a furry friend to your home, or gifting one to a senior adult in your life, consult a professional who can help you select the right fit for your needs.