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How Dogs Can Help Retirees

By Danielle Guercio
published: December 11, 2018 - updated: June 7, 2022 • 4 min. read
retiree with dog

Having a pet is a wonderful way to add companionship to your home if you are retiring, but dogs are so much more than a simple couch buddy. After considering a pet’s needs and if you or a retiree can meet them, you may want to know more about how pets can help with healthy aging. Here are the wonderful ways pets help humans throughout their golden years.


Getting a few minutes outdoors or a brisk 10 minute walk is not only good for the dog, but for humans too! Fresh air and exercise is an important part of maintaining both pet and pet parent’s daily health and wellness regimen.

You may be wondering, what is a bonus from exercise with your dog? Better quality sleep. A study (called Whitehall II) from Kingston University and St. George’s University in London began in 1985 and involved more than 10,000 civil servants working across 20 departments in London. The research done by health and wellbeing expert Gill Mein and statistician Robert Grant examined the link between retirement and health. Surprisingly, they determined that not only did retirees with dogs have more instances of mild to moderate exercise, they in turn had better quality of sleep. This also can be attributed to having their furry companion with them, removing a layer of anxiety or depression that may also contribute to insomnia.

A word to the wise: Make sure to match a breed and personality of a dog to ability. If you are more sedentary, a bully breed will have a less dramatic energy level, whereas an active breed may be too hyper to skip the long runs. Personality and training are key, as every dog has its own set of behaviors. The breed is only a single part of the equation, but a good jumping off point.

Healthy Hearts Infographic: Pets and Cardio Health

In addition to getting you moving, it’s proven that pets help with cardiovascular health too. Our friends at the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) say, “Many studies have explored the relationship between pet ownership and cardiovascular health through focusing on the blood pressure, heart rate and physical activity of pet owners compared to non-pet owners. The American Heart Association reviewed these studies and issued a Scientific Statement connecting pet ownership to the prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

Medical Alert

Service animals can greatly improve the quality of life of anyone who may have retired due to disability. Dogs trained to detect diabetic episodes, seizures, anxiety attacks, and many other conditions can help their owners live more independent lives and prevent a delay in their receiving emergency care.

Specially trained dogs are also useful for those with a decline in vision or mobility. Anything Pawsable, an online magazine for service and working dog owners, explains how dogs can help with mobility issues – “Mobility Dogs help people with impaired balance, gait, or coordination to safely walk or regain their footing after a fall, and they help individuals who utilize prosthetics or other assistive devices, including wheelchairs, gain unprecedented levels of independence, freedom and mobility. They are also frequently trained to help their handler with everyday duties that their human partner can’t readily perform because of their disability, or can only perform with difficulty, like picking up dropped items, retrieving out-of-reach objects, and opening/closing doors, drawers and cabinets.”

This can be life changing for someone with physical limitations, and as we age those can increase and impede on our day to day activities. As dogs do not come out of the shelter, nor are bred ready to do these tasks, this level of work and training puts them in the category of service dogs. A service dog is a good consideration for anyone needing the consistent medical assistance that these animals can provide.

Companionship & Mental Health

retiree with dogProbably the greatest gift a dog can give a human is their affection and loyalty. The canine-to-human bond is a powerful relationship that can fight depression and loneliness. Pets increase our quality of life by bringing us value and meaning to our days, promoting relaxation and keeping us on a healthy schedule. But did you know this can extend to your surroundings? From the same study in London, Mein says, “The…element I found fascinating was that people with pets felt happier about their local environment. If you walk around your neighborhood, you feel more comfortable about it – it isn’t necessarily as hostile as it could be if you mainly travel in a car or use public transport as you know it a bit better, it’s more familiar.”

Additionally, there is also a sense of security that comes with having a pet at home. This security addition doesn’t have to come in the form of a dog, but they’re definitely a more loving way to keep your home safe than a loud perimeter system. The right pup will be a mush with the family but will alert you to any intruders. “Guard” dogs can be a wonderfully goofy member of any size brood, and are great for single people or couples who have retired and need extra eyes and ears about.

For all the things they do for us, pets are pretty great! Having a special furry friend curled up beside us is something we share in common with the ancients. Your friendship through the years will keep you happier and healthier, so take a moment to consider caring for a creature who will care for you in return.

Don’t forget the pet insurance! Not only can you save up to 90% on vet bills with a Healthy Paws pet insurance policy, you also can say “yes” to the most cutting-edge vet treatments out there, giving your pet a better chance of living healthier, longer lives. Start by getting a free quote.