A study done in Scotland was recently published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine. The study assessed the mental and physical well-being of 547 pensioners, folks over the age of 65, with an average age of 79 from the Scottish city of Dundee and the surrounding area. Among the sample, nine percent or about 50 people owned a dog. Of those, about 75 percent said they walked their dog regularly.
There are many studies that talk about the benefits of pet ownership, namely the positive effects on health, but this study is the first that looked at people specifically over the age of 65.
As you might imagine, people who own, or even those who simply walk, a dog experience lower heart rates and blood pressure, better general health and report less anxiety and depression.
A popular topic of study is late-life depression. Research findings show there is a high percentage of loneliness, depression and isolation among the older population. While there are several factors that contribute to this, like medical problems and death of family and friends, there are some strategies to try to reduce the prevalence of depression.
This Scotland study suggests that an older person doesn’t necessarily need to own a dog, but just needs to find one to walk. Should they “borrow” a dog every day? Should they be a part of a “dog share” program with other seniors? What if they are part of a group of dog walkers and walk the dogs of working folks in their communities?