On average, older adults spend over half their waking hours alone.
Let that headline from Pew Research sink in. Half of their waking hours. Alone.
Living alone and spending over half your waking hours alone is not always a negative. But, like dogs, people tend to do better with a pack of their own. Transitioning from being active at work and having a purpose, kids at home, death of a spouse, decreased income, physical changes, are each challenging. Having multiple changes all at once can lead to depression and poor health.
Today is National Senior Citizen Day and, yes, we’re talking about me. After my car wreck, I felt my life shrinking. Being in pain and dealing with a major concussion and brain injury changed my personality and made it nearly impossible to be the me I remembered. Rather than make explanations or play-act or try and pretend I was not seriously injured I stayed home. People got tired of asking me to do things because my answer increasingly was no. People will only ask for so long.
I wish I had listened to my doctor when he suggested getting a dog but all I saw was one more thing to do when I had no energy to do what I was already doing. Thank goodness I finally listened!
Moving over 5,000 miles to a place I had never lived was hard. And I was alone well over half of my waking hours. I became increasingly depressed and lonely. Getting a dog gave me a purpose and changed my life.
Not all seniors fall into this category at all. We volunteer, we still work, we have families, we have entertaining hobbies, we travel. But even with all of the above, I spend hours with only Coconut because I work out of my home. My income is limited now so I can’t spend money on activities and travels the way I wish. But with Coconut I am never really alone.
We are proud to bring in a large number of senior dogs we rescue from Kentucky. But we are also excited to be able to have so many smaller dogs to choose from because many seniors are not able to have dogs over twenty-five-pounds due to their living situations. Many fear that they won’t be able to handle a larger dog. Whatever the reason we have dogs, dogs, dogs, and we tend to usually have smaller ones.
There are lots of benefits to having a dog when you are a senior or simply living alone.
Dogs are willing and happily able to follow your schedule and to key in on your personality with a little training. This is great news! When you are looking for a dog talk to your adoption counselor and give them as much information about your lifestyle and needs so they can help you find a great dog.
Having a Routine
My mother-in-law is visiting here and she has fallen in love with my dog. She has been a widow for about seven years and we suggested a dog or a cat. “I don’t ever want to be responsible for anything else again. Not a plant or a goldfish and certainly not a dog!” The more she sees how Coconut has enhanced my life and how having a routine gives me purpose the closer she is to getting a dog I think. At least she now understands why the right dog might make sense.
A dog doesn’t give you an option if you want him to be healthy. So as he exercises so do you and that’s a huge benefit for having a dog. My best conversations are done while walking. Okay, one-sided conversations but I know what he thinks and how he is answering me. It’s all in the eyes. Stress
Older people with pets exhibit less stress than their pet-less counterparts. Whether it’s the whole purpose to life thing or regular exercise or all that love dogs give to their people stress is greatly reduced for those who have a dog.
Having a pet is a good way to stay involved even if it’s just going to the vet or the pet store or the groomer. Eventually, you meet other people with dogs and other shared interests come to light. Getting out expands our worlds and dogs make you do that.
Making New Friends
My son used to ask if he could take the “chick magnet” for a walk. Yeah, he’s that cute. Son and dog. But bets are such a great icebreaker and there are lots of activities geared towards pet owners. From fundraisers to our volunteering at our adoption days to pet walks and more there seems to be a number of things in every community do and that usually is an opportunity to make more friends.
Investing in Life
At the end of the day, having a pet means that you have made a promise to continue being involved in another life. If you’re like me and other seniors I know we spent our lives being involved in the lives of others. Just because a career ends and children move away or need us less doesn’t mean we can’t be involved in the lives of another. Maybe the life at this stage is one with four paws instead of two feet. I can tell you my four-legged child is not nearly as mouthy as my sons were and that’s not a bad thing.
Like my mother-in-law, I never thought I would ever have a dog. But I have found that it is very satisfying to take care of another living thing. Making the commitment to love Coconut is one of the most positive decisions I made for my health and for my future.
We would love to help you find your perfect dog to take care of and that dog, in turn, will take care of you.
Danielle is a two-year-old Chihuahua/Mix and Skipper is a three-year-old Terrier/Mix. These are our smallest dogs but we have many other dogs appropriate for seniors or anyone. Why not come out to see all the dogs we have and consider what a difference a dog can be in your life. You’ll no longer be alone, that’s for sure.