Human Seniors & Senior Dogs: A Match Made in Heaven?

by Jessica Brody

Seniors are more prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation than any other age group. Research has shown that nearly half of all seniors report feeling lonely. This heartbreaking statistic actually puts our oldest generations at risk for anxiety, depression, dementia, and a variety of chronic health conditions which can lead to decline and even death.

Sadly, senior humans aren’t the only ones suffering. Around the world, senior dogs are given up for adoption or sent to shelters by owners who no longer want them, can’t afford them, or simply no longer have the time, patience or compassion required to care for an aging pet.

Puppies are so cute and adorable that many people completely overlook older dogs. The sad truth is that so many people want puppies that many senior dogs spend months waiting to be rescued - and many never find their forever homes. Instead, they are euthanized after failing to be adopted. According to one California-based animal rescue association, “the vast majority of dogs don’t make it out [of shelters] alive.”

Although many unwanted puppies and younger dogs arrive at animal shelters due to behavioral issues, most senior dogs are abandoned at shelters due to no fault of their own. After having lived most of their lives with the same family, as many as 90% of senior pets are surrendered due to a previous owner’s divorce, job loss, financial situation, lifestyle, relocation or even death.

The good news is that senior humans can be an excellent match for senior dogs. Human seniors can benefit from adopting a senior dog in a number of ways. They provide companionship for each other, reducing the feelings of depression and/or anxiety (in both dogs and humans). The decreased loneliness is especially beneficial to human seniors, potentially reducing their risk of dementia, improving their overall health, and possibly even leading to a longer lifespan.

Senior dogs are readily available at many humane societies, shelters, and breed rescues. After finding a senior dog to fit their needs, personalities, and lifestyles, senior humans can begin the process of preparing their home for their newly-adopted pet.

When it comes to caring for a senior dog, there are a few extra considerations that seniors should take. For instance, some senior dogs have visual impairments, hearing loss, or limited mobility. Luckily, some minor home adjustments might make it easier for the senior dog to settle into his or her new home.

Although senior dogs might occasionally require some additional care and consideration, they typically have a reduced energy level compared to younger dogs. This makes them a better match for senior humans because they may be easier to care for. In addition, many senior dogs have already been housebroken and obedience trained, which will save their human owners some effort. Instead of having to train a new puppy, senior dog owners can jump right into bonding with their new pet and enjoying their time together.

Senior humans who are facing loneliness and isolation may want to consider adopting a senior dog. The potential human-dog relationship offers many clear benefits to both the humans and their dogs. It’s possible that senior humans and senior dogs can literally “rescue” each other, possibly even saving each other’s lives.


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