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How Dogs Can Help Cure Loneliness

We all feel lonely sometimes. It's just a fact of life. But those moments of loneliness can serve a purpose, reminding us of how precious time with our friends and loved ones truly is. 

Those moments when we are alone can help us appreciate the time we spend with others even more. But what if the loneliness wasn't inevitable, but a relatively brief moment in a life otherwise filled with love and companionship?

What if you were alone nearly all day, every day? And what if the time you spent with others was only shrinking with each passing year, as one by one, the people you love most slip out of your life?

It's terrible to think about but even worse to experience. And yet that's the reality for millions of seniors in the US today. According to a recent study, as many as 1 in 3 seniors suffer from chronic loneliness. And the effects can be deadly, taking as profound a toll on their physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

It doesn't have to be that way. Bringing a wet-nosed, big-eyed, four-legged bundle of love into a senior's home can improve their physical health, from lowering blood pressure to improving memory and cognitive function. It's the emotional and social benefits of adopting a little Fido or Fifi that really can't be beaten. 

Best Friends Forever

The greatest thing about owning a dog is that no matter where you may go, you have a built-in best friend. Your furry companion will never judge or reject you. They want nothing more than your love and care.

When seniors struggle with loneliness, for example, in the aftermath of the loss of a spouse or separation from friends and family, a dog can provide the emotional connection seniors so desperately need. Studies show, for instance, that just the physical act of petting or hugging an animal, and of experiencing that affection being returned, can significantly reduce anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.

The Need to Be Needed

There are approximately 70 million baby boomers currently living in the United States, and by the year 2029, it's expected that 20% of the population will be over the age of 65. It's not just that the population is aging, however. The population is also getting sicker. Rates of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes are climbing, even as advances in medical technology increase life expectancy. But the quantity of life, unfortunately, does not always equate to quality of life. 

That is yet another arena where the benefits of dog ownership shine through. Being a pet parent is about more than just enjoying the companionship your furry friend provides. It's also about being needed by your fur child. Aging isn't for wimps. You have aches and pains you never thought possible. You may genuinely feel like doing nothing all day but lying in bed in front of the television. When you have a fur baby, though, that's not an option. 

Whether you are sick or well, your fur baby's needs don't change, and they're still looking to you to provide for them. That means, no matter what, you're going to get up. You're going to feed your little girl. You're going to get out and let your boy answer the call of nature. You're going to be active and out in the world because your little one needs you to be. When you do, you're going to end up feeling a whole lot better, physically, mentally, and emotionally, than you would have if you'd just stayed in bed!

Attention Magnet

Another great thing about parenting a dog is that it's probably not going to be the two of you alone for very long. There's just something about those eyes, that furiously wagging tail, and that soft fur that begs to be touched. 

Your fur baby's sure to draw friends to you like tuna on a hook. If you're feeling lonely for human companionship, but you have trouble striking up a conversation, don't sweat it. Just let your fur child's cuteness do the talking. Your little Fifi can be just the trick for helping you make friends and meet new people

Dogs are also superb judges of character. So if Bruiser likes them, and they like Bruiser, then there's a pretty good chance you should like them too! And the more you and your fur baby join the world, meeting and connecting with other people, the healthier, happier, and more positive you will feel! 

The Takeaway

For seniors battling loneliness, the benefits of having a dog are immense. With a little four-legged companion, your best friend never leaves your side. You get the experience of constant, unconditional love, not to mention the pleasure of feeling useful and needed. And if you want to make new, human friends, all you've got to do is like little Samson or big Delilah work their magic!


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