May 21, 2023

Lonely? Get a Dog

Are you lonely? Are you worried you might not have enough social interaction in retirement?

I’ve got a tip for you that is guaranteed to help.

Get or borrow a dog!

It was only just a few years ago I got my first dog, and I can tell you she has improved my life in so many ways. My family jokes she is my BFF, and I can’t argue that.

Loneliness in retirement is real and it’s pervasive.

The research shows that over 40% of individuals over 60 years old report feeling lonely and that nearly one in four adults over the age of 65 are “socially isolated.” This is tragic. In their prime retirement years, such a large percentage of retirees shouldn’t feel lonely. Worse yet, we are getting lonelier. According to research from the Stanford Center on Longevity, those in the Baby Boom generation are even less socially engaged compared to just 20 years ago, though the researchers aren’t sure why.

What causes so many retirees to be lonely in retirement?

One good reason is that our work provides the largest contribution to friends and social interaction. It’s the number one source of friends and we are almost guaranteed to have some form of social interaction every day we work. Like so many other things, this changes in retirement. The day after retiring, we face a large social void that wasn’t there just 24 hours ago. This social void is real, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. The number one thing retirees miss most about work? It’s not the paycheck. It’s not the structure. It’s not even the sense of accomplishment. It’s the people and the social stimulation.

A dog can help.

Dogs are often referred to as man's best friend, and for good reason. They offer unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship. For those who are lonely, getting a dog can be a game-changer.

Here are some of the benefits of getting a dog if you are lonely. 

1. Unconditional love

I was a cat person until I got a dog. Dogs are known for their unconditional love. They don't care about your past, your income, or your social status. They love you for who you are. This unconditional love can be a powerful force in combating feelings of loneliness. Knowing that you have a loyal and loving companion by your side can be a huge comfort.

2. Companionship

One of the most significant benefits of getting a dog if you are lonely is the companionship they provide. Dogs are social animals and thrive on human interaction. They love spending time with their owners and are always eager to please. Having a furry friend around can make a huge difference in combating feelings of loneliness.

3. Increased socialization (aka, you’ll feel like a rockstar because you’ll get so much attention from strangers).

Dog owners often meet other dog owners when out on walks or at the dog park. This can lead to new friendships and social connections. Dogs can also be a great conversation starter. When I bring my dog to an outdoor mall or other setting, I can’t tell you how many people will come up and start talking to me. It’s impossible to feel lonely!

4. Improved mental health

Studies have shown that owning a dog can have a positive impact on mental health. Dogs are great stress-relievers and can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. They provide a sense of purpose and can be a great source of motivation. In addition, owning a dog can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that play a role in mood regulation.

5. Improved physical health

In addition to the mental health benefits, owning a dog can also improve physical health. Dogs require regular exercise, which means that their owners have to get up and get moving. This can lead to improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and increased energy levels. In addition, studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease.

6. Sense of security

Dogs can also provide a sense of security. They are protective of their owners and will bark if they sense danger. This can be especially comforting for those who live alone or feel vulnerable. Knowing that you have a loyal companion who will protect you can be a huge comfort.

7. Give you purpose

One of the by-products of loneliness is that you don’t feel wanted or that you aren’t needed. Want to feel wanted and needed? Get a dog! They need you. You’ll not only feel companionship but you’ll have something to take care of – you’ll have a purpose.

Loneliness can be a debilitating feeling, but owning a dog can help to reduce feelings of isolation. Dogs are great at providing a sense of connection and can help to make you feel less alone. Even just having a furry friend by your side can make a huge difference.

If you are new to being a dog parent like I was, it can be challenging if you travel a lot or you don’t think you will have the time/energy to provide them with the exercise and attention they need. If you are unsure, consider being a foster dog owner for a few weeks. It’s a great way to test the waters.

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