The holistic way of life for pets, one that takes into account the importance of diet, and seeks to minimize vaccines and medications, is the epitome of care for our dogs. When we approach their health from an integrative perspective, seeking to heal our pets and prevent disease from within, we actively recognize the value they bring to our lives. Of the many human beings that consider dogs part of the family, one important group comprises the elderly, who find that far from merely providing companionship, dogs have many important benefits for their mental health.

Pets and Exercise

Research shows that seniors who have pets, also exercise more. As we know, dogs need one or more long walks a day, which is a great way for seniors to battle the sedentary lifestyle that so many Americans have fallen prey to.

What is more, exercise is recommended for seniors battling depression, stress, and anxiety, but it is precisely those facing conditions such as depression who can lack the motivation to get up and about. When you have a dog, there is no deciding; simply getting up is motivation enough to go for an energetic walk.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that senior who are pet owners benefit greatly from the bonds they form with canines; these include a lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, and important social benefits.

The Benefits of Nature

Dogs ‘force’ us into green areas we often take for granted: parks, lakeside settings, beaches, forests… studies have shown that spending time in nature elevates mood (because of the sunlight), improves concentration, and even helps us experience less pain and stress.

Author Richard Louv’s excellent book, Last Child in the Woods, notes that most people in developed countries are suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ because they ignore their vital relationship with nature. Symptoms of this disorder include stress, obesity, anxiety, and an inability to focus/concentrate.

Simply spending time in nature is in itself a powerful way to experience mindfulness; to really be ‘in the present moment’, opening our senses of sight, hearing, and touch, to the wonders of majestic surroundings.

Battling Loneliness and Fear

Studies have revealed that human beings enjoy better sleep quality when they snooze in the same room (but not the same bed) as their dogs. The reasons postulated include a sense of companionship and a reduction in the fear of being alone.

Researchers have long recommended that seniors consider dog ownership to stay physically and mentally fit. Dogs encourage activity, provide companionship, and buffer stress in ways that are only beginning to be fully appreciated.

Guest blog by: Chrissy Richardson